Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Data as a Strategic Resource: Self-determination, Governance , and the Data Challenge for Indigenous Nations in the United States


Data about Indigenous populations in the United States are inconsistent and irrelevant. Federal and state governments and researchers direct most collection, analysis, and use of data about U.S. Indigenous populations. Indigenous Peoples’ justified mistrust further complicates the collection and use of these data. Nonetheless, tribal leaders and communities depend on these data to inform decision making. Reliance on data that do not reflect tribal needs, priorities, and self-conceptions threatens tribal self-determination. Tribal data sovereignty through governance of data on Indigenous populations is long overdue. This article provides two case studies of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and their demographic and socioeconomic data initiatives to create locally and culturally relevant data for decision making.

Resource Type
Rainie, S. C. , Schultz, J. L. , Briggs, E. , Riggs, P. , Palmanteer-Holder, N. L. (2017). Data as a Strategic Resource: Self-determination, Governance, and the Data Challenge for Indigenous Nations in the United States.The International Indigenous Policy Journal, 8(2) .Retrieved from: https://ojs.lib.uwo.ca/index.php/iipj/article/view/7511/6155

Project Pueblo: Economic Development Revitalization Project


A strong economy is one of the foundations of a healthy community. Native nations use business profits and tax revenues to invest in areas such as health, education, culture, and public safety programs to meet the needs of tribal citizens. At the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a sudden economic decline in the early 2000s forced the nation to re-examine the way in which business was being conducted on the reservation. The tribal government responded by launching Project Pueblo, a full-scale planning initiative that took a hard look at all aspects of their economy and government to find a new path forward.

Native Nations
Resource Type

"Project Pueblo: Economic Development Revitalization Project." Honoring Nations: 2010 Honoree. Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2011. Report.

Ian Record: Constitutional Reform: Some Perspectives on Process

Native Nations Institute

Dr. Ian Record, NNI Manager of Educational Resources, provides a broad overview of the inherent difficulties involved with constitutional reform, the different processes that Native nations are developing to engage in constitutional reform, and some of the effective reform strategies that NNI is encountering through its work with Native nations in this area. He also discusses the appropriate roles that attorneys and legal advocates should play in the reform process.

Resource Type

Record, Ian. "Constitutional Reform: Some Perspectives on Process." Indigenous Peoples' Law and Policy Program, James E. Rogers College of Law, The University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 15, 2014. Presentation.

“The reality is that in the era of nation building, the era of tribal self-determination, what we’re seeing is a growing number of nations realizing that if they want to fully exercise their sovereignty, if they want to fully exercise their jurisdiction, if they want to be serious about tribal self-determination and self-governance, they have to look first and foremost at the constitutional basis of their governance systems and once...when they do that, what a great number of them are finding is that the constitutions that they have for a variety of reasons aren’t theirs, were imposed upon them by outsiders, typically the federal government through the Indian Reorganization Act, through the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act and other types of legislation and acts. And what they’re finding is that they don’t own them, they’re not theirs, they don’t make sense to them culturally, and also in many cases, they don’t meet the challenges of the day. They’re very structurally weak, they’re ill equipped to enable Native nations to achieve their goals, to negotiate the complex governance challenges that they face in the 21st century.

And so what we do at the Native Nations Institute is we spend quite a bit of our time working directly with a growing number of native nations, in particular in the region of North and South Dakota and Minnesota in this realm of governance reform and specifically constitutional reform. So often we are called to come in, and at the very beginning of a process, when the nation may just have come to the decision that we’re going to tackle this constitutional reform challenge. And often we’re brought in after a reform process has failed. Often we’re brought in to help a nation design a citizen education campaign around a new constitution that they’ve already created. So what we’ve been in the great position to do is to really see at various stages of the constitutional reform process what is working and what isn’t.

So what I wanted to talk about today, to spend a little bit of time on, is what we’ve learned when it comes to not so much what kinds of constitutional changes that tribes are making, but more how they’re doing it. Because fortunately or unfortunately, what we’re seeing is there’s a lot more nations that recognize that they need to make constitutional change happen than are actually doing that constitutional change because it’s an incredibly difficult process. And it’s often difficult for the very reasons that I already talked about, these legacies of colonialism, which I’ll get into in a little bit.

So here’s some of the outcomes that we see, and this is sort of done in conversational style, but we see a variety of outcomes when it comes to nations engaging in constitutional reform. Some actually succeed. Some actually succeed to the scope and to the degree to which they actually embarked upon.

So they say, ‘Well, at the beginning of the process we’ve decided we’re going to get rid of this constitution we have because for the reasons I put out it doesn’t make sense to us, it doesn’t meet our needs and they actually succeed in developing an entirely new constitution. Other say, ‘Well, yeah, I guess you could say we succeeded, but we only did minor changes. We didn’t do nearly as much as we had hoped to do because perhaps some of the bigger changes were too controversial, our people weren’t ready to really accept what a major change in a particular area was going to mean so we kind of...we did the easy stuff. We did the more pro forma stuff.’

Sometimes we hear tribes say, ‘Well, we completed reform but our citizens didn’t really have a full sense of ownership in the process and they didn’t really care what the outcome is and things are sort of proceeding as they did before.’ And that’s a real dangerous place that you don’t want to be in as a Native nation.

Sometimes we see tribes say, ‘Well, we completed reform, but the community is now only more divided than it was before. We engaged in this process because there was division within the community, there was a lot of factionalism going on, we felt that at the root of that factionalism was our governance system and the inherent inadequacies in it, but this reform we’ve engaged in has actually made things worse.’

Often we hear this, ‘Our process started and then it stalled.’ And there is a variety of reasons we see for that. I’d say the biggest one probably is the political turnover challenge. Often, in these nations that are wrestling with constitutional reform, if you look at for instance the standard boilerplate IRA (Indian Reorganization Act) constitution system of government, you have two-year, non-staggered terms of elected office. So if you think about that, you have a very small window. If you have a group of leaders that decide, ‘We want to push constitutional reform, maybe that was the platform we ran on our campaign and we really feel like we’ve got this short window to do this,’ and if you’re thinking about two-year, non-staggered terms, you’re looking at maybe 12 months of real meaningful work that you can do before it’s time to get ready for re-election and try to run on some sort of platform of progress.

And then often we see, ‘We can’t even get the process started.’ And in these instances typically what it is is there’s widespread recognition in the community, there’s widespread recognition among elected leadership, there’s widespread recognition among people working in tribal government that, ‘The system we have is not working. We can’t make this work, we can’t move forward as long as we have it, but we can’t seem to get off the mark in terms of figuring out how to actually change it.’ So these are just some of the common outcomes.

So why is it so difficult? Constitutional change is difficult everywhere. If you look at a lot of the examples coming out of Africa for instance in the last 20, 30 years, if you look at those former Eastern European Soviet Union block countries that got out of the Soviet Union when the Soviet Union fell apart, they’ve been struggling for the past 30 or so years trying to figure out, ‘What’s going to be the constitutional basis of our government?’ And there were a number that simply pulled one off the shelf and they very quickly found that, ‘It’s not working for us. We’ve got to develop something that is ours, that makes sense to us.’ So it’s difficult everywhere.

The legacies of colonialism complicate it. Often the very policies that nations are trying to get out from under by engaging in constitutional reform are the actual things that hinder constitutional reform, things like I just mentioned, these short, non-staggered terms of elected office. Often in these nations you have a lack of separations of powers, division of responsibilities, so you can have one leader or a couple of leaders just say, ‘If we’re not buying into this process, we can derail the whole thing,’ because they have that much power and authority. So the legacies of colonialism complicate it.

Time is often short. I mentioned that. And I wanted to share this example with you and this is in your packet here. This is...I actually took this screen capture. This is from an email that we got from a tribe that we’ve been working with on and off for the last several years. They were basically emailing us asking us to provide them assistance and this is what they laid out as their timetable for starting a constitutional reform process and actually having a new draft constitution in hand, upon which time they could have their citizens vote on it. This is a nation with more than 13,000 citizens, spread out all over the place. More than half of them live off reservation.

So they had it in mind, the particular elected leader who was leading this initiative, had it in mind that between early May and mid-June, roughly six weeks, that they would initiate a constitutional reform process with an initial training of their leadership followed by a community forum to discuss and review the current constitution, a team meeting to draft the new constitution, a community forum to review that draft and offer any feedback, and then the presentation of a petition and proposed revised constitution for signatures at general council to basically put it up for election. All this they were going to do within six weeks, an entirely new constitution.

And what we responded to them was, we said, ‘You need to take a step back and take a deep breath and think about what you’re trying to accomplish. You’re trying to essentially revolutionize your entire system of governance in six weeks, a system of governance that your people has lived with for the entirety of most people’s lifetimes on the reservation and you’re going to give your community, your citizens, one opportunity really to express their will about what they want to see in a constitution and then one opportunity to respond to how they think they see their will captured in that document. And also they have to be physically present and there’s only going to be one chance each time. So if you’ve got a schedule conflict that day, too bad, you had your opportunity.’

So this is the sort of thing we sometimes see nations struggle with because this elected leader says, ‘If I don’t get this done during my term in office, then it’s not going to happen. So I’ve got to sort of build this artificial timetable that does not allow for the people to gain ownership in the process.’ And often really that’s at the root of the problem in many of these constitutions is the people don’t own it. They don’t feel it’s theirs, they don’t believe in it and they don’t believe in the system of government that the constitution creates and so they tend to try to rip off that government for everything it’s worth instead of actually supporting it and supporting the elected leaders who are elected to lead it. So time is often short, that’s a huge challenge.

Cultural match, which is one of the NNI research findings. That is often very difficult to achieve because it’s very difficult to go back to the way things were 150, 200 years ago. What I often stress when I work with tribes in this area is you need to go back and understand how your nation governed itself before the legacies of colonialism began to have an impact, federal policies began to have an impact. What was your nation’s constitution, written or unwritten? What was it? How did the people actually organize to get things done, to sustain the life of the nation? And then also how did your nation’s current constitution come to be? Because those are tools, those are informational tools that nations need as they begin this...to engage this question of reform.

And then another challenge of why reform is so difficult is that you’re not reforming your constitution sort of in isolation. You’ve got to do it with some thought about, ‘How do we relate with other governments? How do we relate with the United States government?’ And what’s really cool is what we’re seeing is we’re seeing a growing number of nations for instance that are removing any reference to the United States in their constitutions, they’re removing any reference of the U.S. Secretary of Interior and their ability to approve changes to the constitution within that constitution. So it is a difficult challenge.

So here’s some other reasons that we’ve encountered. There’s not enough citizen education. And this is really an inherent issue that is larger than simply the constitutional reform process that many nations try to engage in. Often they’re starting at a deficit because they don’t...there isn’t in the community a tribal civics education taking place where young people in the community are learning about how their people governed themselves traditionally, how their current government works, what their current constitution says, they’re not learning that. And so you’re sort of starting with a knowledge gap in many Native communities that is difficult to overcome and really takes a lot of forethought. And that sort of is a bigger challenge than simply saying, ‘Okay, we want to change the constitution.’ If you’re engaging your people about that question, first they have to understand, ‘Well, what are we starting with? What are we starting with? You’re asking us to consider changing something, we don’t even know what that something is.’

So often that’s an issue. Often there’s not enough citizen participation and ownership. It’s that example I just showed you. ‘Eh, we’ll give our citizens one shot at the apple and after that we’ve at least given them the opportunity and then we’re going to move forward.’

And then there’s this question of politics. Reform has to start somewhere and typically it’s going to start with one group of leaders, elected leaders, who are saying, ‘We think this is important. We think if the nation’s going to move forward we’ve got to go down this constitutional reform road.’ No matter what, there’s going to be some in the community that’ll say, ‘Well, this is their political agenda. They’re not doing this on the nation’s behalf. They’re doing this for their own political gain.’ So there’s sort of an inherent distrust and often it’s, again, this is one of the many ‘Catch 22s’ in this area, often the distrust of government in many of these communities has been exacerbated over the decades by the fact that they have a weak constitution. And so when these nations or these leaders say, ‘Well, we need to strengthen our constitution,’ that’s when that distrust tends to rear its ugly head.

And then there’s just simply fear of change. Fear of change. Like I mentioned, in many communities there’s a widespread recognition that the constitution and system of government they have is not adequate, it’s not appropriate, but at the same time a lot of those people feel very comfortable with the way things are. It’s not the best it could be, but they’re comfortable with it, they know how it works, they know the system and if you come to them and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to turn this thing completely upside down on its head and we’re going to create an entirely new governance reality,’ that’s pretty scary for folks.

And there’s parallels around the world. Just look at like the Affordable Care Act. That was a major change in terms of how the government, how the U.S. government serves the U.S. citizens. Basically saying, ‘We’re getting into the health care field. We’re going to get more forcefully into this area.’ That was a huge change and a lot of people still aren’t satisfied with it.

So here are some strategies we’ve come across. We’ve seen tribes tend to be more successful with constitutional reform when they think really hard at the outset about who is going to be in charge of the process. Who is going to be in charge of the process? And we’ll get more into that. They think long and hard about, ‘What are the best ways we can educate our nation’s citizens,’ and this is really critical. That ‘s’ is underlined for a reason. Tribes tend to be more successful when they develop a multi-faceted approach to citizen education and engagement. So basically they do much more than that example I showed you where they just said, ‘Well, we’re going to have a community meeting. We’ll make sure it’s well publicized. Whoever shows up, shows up and whoever doesn’t show up, you had your chance.’

Well, we’ve seen nations like White Earth for instance, who recently went through the development of a new constitution up in Minnesota, who said, ‘We understand our people. We understand the different ways they learn. We’re going to try to develop multiple pathways by which our citizens can learn about and contribute to the development of this new constitution. It’s going to be several cycles of community meetings held in different locations where we know our people live, whether it’s on reservation or off. We’re going to have a website specifically dedicated to this process where we have things like explanatory videos that discuss key aspects of the new constitution, etc. We’re going to be active on social media because we know that’s how young people access information.’ So a multi-faceted approach to educate and engage the nation’s citizens about this critical topic.

And then culturally appropriate methods, culturally appropriate methods. So for instance Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, a Pueblo nation in Texas that I’ve been working with, they’ve incorporated, they don’t have a written constitution, but one of the things they’re engaged in is redefining their citizenship criteria, which you could argue is a major constitutional change because they’re changing how they’re constituting themselves by seemingly...it looks like they’re going to be abandoning blood quantum and moving to lineal descent. So that’s a major constitutional change.

Well, what they’ve been doing is they’ve been incorporating their citizen education and engagement strategies into their existing cultural activities. So for instance, I think it’s every three months they have what’s called a ‘Pueblo Junta,’ which is basically a large gathering of all the community members and that’s where they’re updating citizens on what they’ve been learning about -- the surveys they’ve been doing of community members, engaging them, getting their feedback and so forth.

So where we see nations really say, ‘What’s appropriate for our people culturally?’ For instance, ‘If we’re really serious about engaging our elders, what’s the most culturally appropriate way to do that? What’s the most culturally appropriate way to get their input on what we want the new constitution to look like?’ So we’ve seen that bear some good fruit.

Where we’ve seen tribes stumble is when councils dominate the process. It gets back to that politics challenge. You don’t want your elected leaders seeming like they’re at the helm of the reform process. That’s not to say they don’t have a critical role to play in sort of setting up the process through, for instance, enabling legislation. They could pass enabling legislation that actually formally creates a constitutional reform body and then make sure that that constitutional reform body has a life that transcends any single administration or any single term in office. But it’s really a supportive role. Where we’ve seen tribes be successful is when they set up an independent constitutional reform body. It can be a commission, a convention, a committee -- whatever you want to call it. The name doesn’t really matter. It’s the independence that matters, the independence of that entity that matters.

And we’ve seen tribes take a variety of approaches to this. Tribes are really being innovative in terms of how they’re making sure that this constitutional reform body is representative of the entire nation because they understand that at the end of the day, if this reform process is going to be successful, it needs to have the trust of the people and the ownership of the people or else the outcome won’t matter. And so they’re saying, ‘Well, how do we achieve that?’

Well, for our nation it might be, ‘Let’s do it by district. Let’s do it by political district because that makes sure that...that ensures that we have...every district will have representation.’ Or they might say, ‘Well, let’s do it by demographics. We want to make sure we have a young person on there. We want to make sure we have an administrative, bureaucrat type from tribal government on there who can sort of bring that perspective. We want to make sure we have an elder on there. We want to make sure we have an off-reservation citizen on there. We want to make sure that we have somebody who’s a descendent of a tribally enrolled citizen, but may not actually be a citizen of the nation because one of the things we’re thinking about doing is reforming our citizenship criteria and if we do that, that person would then become a citizen of the tribe. So we want that perspective as well.’

So there’s a variety of ways that nations are approaching this representation issue, but ultimately what it needs to be is independent. It needs to have that sort of stand-alone...that stand-alone persona in the community where the average Joe Citizen will look at that reform body and say, ‘Okay, this is not the creature of the council or this particular elected leader. This has its own force to it that is independent and distinct from the current holders of political authority.’ And it’s got to be well funded and it’s got to be respected.

What we’ve seen in some instances is nations will do a really good job of this kind of stuff, the independence questions, the representation question, and then they get down here and they say, ‘Well, we didn’t really have a lot of money for this.’ When what we’ve seen, where these efforts tend to be successful, they take two, three, four, five, six, seven years. They take an extraordinary amount of research, meetings, sometimes travel, sometimes these nations are sending delegations to other tribes who’ve undergone reform and learning from them. So this can get pretty costly and a lot of it depends on how big the tribe is, how many of their citizens they’re trying to reach and get engaged in this.

And then it has to be respected. It has to be respected. Unfortunately what we’ve seen is in some instances tribal leaders will pay lip service to the fact that, ‘Yeah, we’re for constitutional reform. We’ve set up this commission,’ and then they’re out at the powwow and they’re chatting up their buddies, they’re bad mouthing the commission’s work and basically that begins to derail the process because people begin to think, ‘Well, if the leadership really isn’t truly behind this, why should I be?’ So that issue of respect is absolutely critical.

I kind of covered this already about this question of legitimacy of this reform commission, of this reform body. One leader of a nation we’ve worked with in this area said, ‘We went into this process with the very explicit thought in mind that we wanted to have this commission maintain an aura of independence,’ was the term they used. An ‘aura of independence.’ That it’s separate and distinct from sort of the normal political back and forth of the day. That this was going to be about the nation and not about faction A versus faction B.

So here’s some just responsibilities that we see these members, whoever ultimately serves on this commission, what we see as some of their key responsibilities. One of the things we really impress upon tribes... And again, it’s hard for tribes to get outside of their own box, to kind of get their head out of their own issues, their own constitutional problems and say, ‘Well, what could we learn from other nations?’ And so what we really impress upon the nations we work with on this is, ‘Go out. Learn from other tribes. Yeah, we can tell you a little bit about what Tribe A did and Tribe B did and Tribe C did, but you could learn a lot more yourself by going and learning from them directly.’ And it’s not to say you go out and you meet with them and you learn from them and you just simply take everything that they’ve done and you implement it wholesale in your nation, but you may learn a lot of valuable lessons about process, you may learn a lot of valuable lessons about the particular types of constitutional changes that those other nations made and why they made them, and are they working or are they not working. But again, that kind of thing takes funding so you’ve got to think about that up front.

They developed drafts of constitutional changes for feedback and this is critical -- drafts plural, drafts plural. The constitutional drafting process is not a one-shot deal. We’ve seen tribes tend to be more successful when they go into it thinking, ‘We’re going to keep drafting and redrafting and redrafting and redrafting until we get this right because it gives us an opportunity to continually, again and again, solicit the citizens’ thoughts, capture their will on this issue and then incorporate it into this document.’

And part of the...I touched on the citizen education challenge a little bit more, but where we see tribes focus a lot of their energy is trying to help the people understand the answers to these questions. They need to understand that the average Joe Citizen who’s maybe a single mom with three kids, just struggling to put food on the table, get propane in the winter, that kind of stuff, you’re asking them to care about the constitution. You’ve got to make the argument, ‘This will improve your life. This will improve the life of your children and their children.’ And you really need to then educate them about what role does the constitution play in the lives of the people, because if you’re not making that argument, then you’ve lost them even before you get out the door. And then you’ve got to say, ‘Well, if we change the constitution, here’s how we think it will benefit you. Here’s how we think it will strengthen your role as citizen of the nation.’ And here are some of the things we see them focusing on in terms of explaining the purpose of this to the people.

And we see them adopt a number of really interesting strategies. We’re seeing...I’ve been working a lot with the tribal colleges across the country in getting them to use our online curriculum and what we’re seeing is a proliferation in recent years of tribal government classes, of history classes specifically about that nation’s government and that nation’s constitution. We’re seeing some tribes really use their media outlets, whether it’s their newspaper, their tribal newspapers, their tribal radio stations, they’re using them to great advantage.

For instance, one woman I know, she’s from one of the Dakota tribes and she’s got a radio show and she’s on the constitutional reform committee. And so each week she does about 30 minutes on the nation’s constitution and she interviews people on the constitutional reform committee and has them provide updates on where the conversation is on the new constitution and so forth. That’s a really good example. And there’s a lot of tribes that have their own radio stations or at least have access to airtime on radio stations that they don’t own.

Youth councils is another emerging trend we’re seeing. Nations really thinking, ‘This challenge of rebuilding our nation, it’s not going to happen overnight. It didn’t take us a year to get to where we’re at. It’s not going to take a year to change things for the better, so we’ve really got to view this as a long-term proposition. And if we’re going to be serious about nation rebuilding, about making...building a stronger government that is more culturally appropriate, we’ve got to start young. We’ve got to start with our young people.’ So just here in Arizona, there’s some of the most innovative, award-winning tribal youth councils anywhere in Indian Country. Gila River, Tohono O’odham, some really good examples there.

So here’s what we sometimes see and this is an unfortunate thing. And again I think, as we move forward, I’ll talk a little bit more of where we see the role of lawyers, of attorneys, in the constitutional reform process. But this is something really important to keep in mind that you really have to have the citizens on board before the constitutional reform train leaves the station or you could end up with a situation where reform fails and you have your citizens even more apathetic about government, even more alienated, and that’s not where you want to be. Particularly when you embark on constitutional reform, it’s often to improve or strengthen the relationship between citizens and government. Often constitutional reform is attempted precisely because people in positions of authority and of leadership realize that ‘our people are completely disengaged and at the root of that disengagement is this inadequate constitution we have.’

So here’s some reasons why people won’t participate and why the citizen engagement challenge is so difficult. I’ll talk about this. I sort of touched on this. Often people just say, ‘I’m too busy. I’ve got too much going on. I don’t have time to deal with this.’ And so where we see tribes succeed is where they recognize early on that, ‘We can’t expect the people to come to us; we’ve got to go to them. We’ve got to go to them.’ As the leader of one nation that we work with said, ‘If your entire constitutional reform process is predicated on the flyer approach, then you’re dead before you even begin because where you’re simply posting flyers saying, ‘Come to this meeting about constitutional reform,’ nobody shows up and you said, ‘Well, they had their chance,’ that’s not good enough. You’ve got to go to them.

‘It’s not my constitution.’ I don’t know how many of you guys read Indianz.com on a regular basis or Indian Country Today. I don’t know how many of you’ve been following the saga up at Blackfeet. But they are...I was just reading a story today and that refrain was coming out again and again and again. ‘Why are we even dealing with this constitution? It’s not ours. Why are we even abiding by these rules? They’re not ours.’ And so I think again that’s where that history piece is so critical, is people need to really understand sort of the detail of that. ‘Well, yeah, you understand it’s not yours, it was something that was imposed upon you, but what does that mean? What does that mean for how you actually go about changing it? And if it’s not yours, then what would be yours?’ Because often, there’s not a lot of conversation about that. There’s a sense of, ‘Well, we know that’s not our government, we don’t believe in it and we understand that’s at the root of our dysfunction,’ but there’s less conversation about, ‘Well, what is ours? What is our constitution if this is not our constitution?’

‘It doesn’t impact my life.’ You could ask any average American citizen that and that would probably be what they would say about the U.S. Constitution. ‘It doesn’t impact my life.’ Sure it does, just not in a way they can readily see. So again, that’s part of the citizen education and engagement challenge is you’ve got to educate people about how it does in fact impact their life.

‘I don’t trust the process. I don’t trust the process.’ And I want to focus on two things here. Sources of mistrust, one of them is commonly dominance of lawyers in the process. How many of you guys like reading constitutions? Come on, raise your hands. Ray, you like reading constitutions? Nobody likes reading constitutions, right? Even you lawyers to be, not really a lot of fun to read constitutions. Imagine your tribal citizens, your average tribal citizens who may have a tenth-grade, twelfth-grade, maybe a tribal college...a couple years of tribal college education. When lawyers tend to dominate the process, the accessibility of the conversation about constitutions tends to be way above their heads. And so we see a lot of mistrust bubbling up when the lawyers are sort of front and center in the reform process from start to finish.

I’ll give you a good example of this and I may have shared this at the seminar. I was actually teaching with some of my colleagues at an executive education seminar with a tribe who has sort of the boilerplate IRA constitution, system of government-style tribe. We had these lawyers show up to this seminar during the second day and they said, ‘If you have some time at the end of your agenda, we’d like to have the floor so we could talk to the elected leadership and community members and some of the key decision makers,’ that were assembled there in the room. And so we did and they actually got up and they said, ‘Well, we’ve been working on this new draft constitution for the tribe and we got it all done. Here it is. It’s all finished. We want to just give you a quick overview of it.’ And before they got more than about 20 or 30 more words out of their mouth, they got shouted down by the people in the room because nobody knew they were even working on this draft constitution. And so there was no ownership in it and the people that had assembled in the room didn’t even care what was in it, it didn’t matter because it was sort of a done deal. And the feeling was, ‘Well, you’re showing us that this constitution’s a done deal and we weren’t even consulted on it. How dare you.’

And so the ways to overcome, some of the ways to overcome that mistrust is transparency, transparency and transparency. You have to expect that the lawyers are going to respond to the community needs and concerns instead of expecting the community to follow the lawyer’s lead. And what’s absolutely critical is that you create a safe environment for real dialogue. And again this comes back to the role of elected leaders. If you’ve got your elected leaders at every single community meeting about the constitution, about the drafting of a new constitution, and you’ve got a bunch of people that care about this new constitution and they really want to share their thoughts and feelings, but the last time they did it in front of an elected leader they lost their job or something like that, you’ve got to question, ‘Do we really have a safe environment for real dialogue?’ And the elected leaders have to think, ‘Well, me even being here, not even saying anything but me even being present at a community meeting about a new constitution, is that appropriate? Is that going to stifle real dialogue? Is that going to stifle frank input from our citizens who we really need their input if we’re going to have a constitution, a new constitution that is going to have the ownership of the people in it?’

So I want to spend a couple more minutes about some of the things I think that you as attorneys to be need to think about when it comes to tribal constitutional reform and the process by which tribes engage in constitutional reform. Because I would imagine that at some point in your careers -- as I mentioned at the outset -- at some point in your careers you’re going to get involved in a constitutional reform process or you’re going to be engaged on a constitutional question or you’re going to be asked to review the constitutionality of something, of a tribe’s constitution, and that could be in the constitution, it could be in its codes, it could be in resolutions or something.

And I thought this...I wanted to share this quote with you because I thought that it’s very telling. One of our colleagues was having a conversation with the leader of a nation who was engaged in reform and he said that, ‘The law comes from the constitution, therefore the lawyer should come after the constitution.’ I thought that that’s a very telling quote because what you want to think about as an attorney and as a lawyer is, ‘What is my role in assisting a nation in developing a constitution, implementing that constitution, living with that constitution, interpreting that constitution,’ it needs to be a supportive role. It needs to be an advisory role, not so much a creative role.

So one of the things to think about in terms of the appropriate role of lawyers in the reform process is to become an expert on tribal constitutional reform. And there’s a couple threads here that I think you should think about. The first is, have a sense of the landscape. What are tribes doing in the area of constitutional reform across Indian Country? What are the major trends that they’re showing as they develop new constitutions, ratify constitutional amendments, etc.? Where are they focusing their activity, their energy? Things like separations of powers, which is an Indigenous concept. Re-instilling that back into their governance systems. Things like removing the Secretary of Interior approval clause from their constitutions, where if a tribe wants to change its constitution, amend its constitution, it has to go get Secretary of Interior approval to do that. A lot of tribes are just saying, ‘Let’s get that out of the equation. We’re going to amend our constitution to take that out.’

It’s things like strengthening justice systems. And as lawyers who are going to be probably dealing in that realm quite a bit of tribal justice systems, it’d behoove you to know, what are tribes doing in this area to strengthen their justice systems? How are they doing it? How many tribes are bestowing upon their appeals court or their supreme court the ability to review the constitutionality of legislation that the tribe ratifies, that the council passes? So become an expert in tribal constitutional reform. And I would argue also become an expert on...if you envision yourself -- whether you’re an attorney general or maybe you’re a lawyer that’s on retainer with the tribe or maybe you’re consulting a number of tribes -- become an expert on what’s the oral history, what’s the record of that nation’s constitutional reform and that nation’s current constitution because often there’s a lot more in the back story to that nation’s constitution than what’s written on the page. Because you might read a provision that says, ‘Well...’ that articulates a separation between the executive and the legislative and it may be a bit innovative in how it words it, but that doesn’t give you enough to go on. You might need to understand, ‘Well, why did they decide to take that approach to that separations of powers question?’ And so learn what you need to learn to understand how that constitution and specific provisions within it came to be.

Help to fine-tune the final constitutional language. So for instance, there’s one tribe we’re working with right now and what they’re moving towards through their citizen engagement process on constitution reform is they’re envisioning, ‘At the end of the day we’re going to end up with basically a terms sheet.’ It’s basically going to be in very layman’s terms, ‘Here are the dozen or maybe two dozen key things we want to see in our new constitution. We want it to protect the language and preserve the language of the people, the native language of the people,’ or something like that. ‘We want a clear and distinct separations of powers between the executive branch, the legislative branch,’ whatever that might look like, whatever it might be. So there might be sort of layman’s terms-style provisions that then need to be taken by a lawyer who understands the legal language that might...that might be the role for you is, ‘How do we fine tune this?’ Another thing is to provide advice as to the legality of the new constitutional amendments. Because often constitutional amendments, if they’re not worded correctly, they might conflict with other laws that the nation has on the books. They might conflict with the actual constitution. An amendment might actually conflict with the rest of the constitution. So that might be a role that you as a lawyer could play.

Help the nation navigate the secretarial election process. So for a lot of nations, as I mentioned, who have that language in their constitutions that says, ‘If we want to change our constitution, we have to have the Secretary of Interior approve it.’ You actually have to go through a secretarial election. It’s an incredibly complex, thorny process and that’s where an attorney can play a role to say, ‘Okay, how do we navigate this process. Maybe there are other nations who’ve recently gone through this. I can call up their attorney and say, ‘What worked for you, what didn’t? How do we streamline this process? Are there certain people at the Bureau that I need to talk to who will be responsible on this thing so we can move this thing forward so our people aren’t waiting 18 months to get an election on something they already agreed to at the tribal level”?’

One of the key areas is you’d advise a nation on, ‘How do you actually implement this constitution?’ Because often these new constitutions or these constitutional amendments will mandate the creations of bodies of law by which those constitutional provisions are then enacted and it might be your role to say, ‘Okay, well, here’s how we actually implement these changes. We need to create laws for this and laws for that. We need to reconcile these conflicting laws we have or else we can’t fully enact this particular provision.’

And then you have to understand how the changes that the nation is either contemplating or the ones they’ve already made, what is it going to mean for how the nation can now exercise its jurisdiction and sovereignty? Because often if you look at some of these IRA constitutions, they’re very, very limited. They have a very limited conception of the nation’s sovereignty and suddenly when that nation then creates a new constitution, it really argues for a much broader, much fuller expression and exercise of sovereignty. So in your role as legal advisor, you’ve got to think, ‘Well, what does that mean in terms of how we deal with other governments, how we deal with private parties for instance? How does that...what does that mean we have to develop in terms of law? Does this mean we structure our contracts differently?’ So there’s this huge ripple effect that comes from constitutional change where the attorneys are going to be front and center.

So here’s some other things we’ve seen when it comes to constitutional conventions and public hearing processes. I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on this but...one of the things I wanted to mention briefly is that it’s important for nations who are going down this constitution reform road to not automatically treat it as a one-shot deal. Often because of those political pressures, often because of the short-term windows, there’s a sense of urgency, there’s a sense of...and often it’s because of responding to crisis. There’s this sense of, ‘We’ve got to get it all done at once. We’ve only got one shot at the apple on this. We’ve got to collapse absolutely everything into this constitutional reform process that we’re currently engaged in. It’s basically an all-or-nothing proposition.’ And where that can really handicap tribes is almost invariably there’s going to be one issue or a couple of issues that are so divisive, that are so controversial that at some point they’re going to threaten to derail the process altogether. Often it’s things like citizenship. ‘Do we want to reduce our blood quantum criteria for citizenship? Do we want to get rid of it altogether?’ I can guarantee you that’s going to be controversial. It can be things like elections, it can be things like terms of office, it can be things like, ‘Do we want our elected officials to be fluent in the language of the people, the first language of the people?’

I worked with one tribe where that blew up the whole thing. They agreed on a bunch of other stuff, but the reform committee was divided right down the middle over that question and instead of saying, ‘Well, let’s set that one aside and proceed with what we agree upon,’ they said, ‘No, because we understand we’ve only got one shot at this, that’s our thinking, then it’s all or nothing,’ and it turned out to be nothing. And I read their draft constitution, it had some amazing things in it, some amazing things that only would have come from them. It is not something that any federal government bureaucrat would have ever dreamed up. It was definitely unique to them, but all that was lost because of disagreement over one thing that probably could have been tabled and an innovative solution could have been crafted over time and it could have been voted on separately.

And then when we’re seeing tribes abandon the Secretary of Interior approval clause and basically saying, ‘We’re going to leave it up to ourselves to determine how our constitution is going to be amended moving forward,’ a lot of thought needs to be given to that because you don’t want amending the constitution to be too easy because then it can be subject to the political whims of the day, the political, internecine fights of the day. You want to make it pretty difficult to change. Not impossible to change, but pretty difficult to change.

Another thing that more and more tribes are considering are older cultural solutions. If you look at some of the new constitutions that are being developed up in Canada by First Nations who are developing new constitutions either by abandoning the Indian Act or often they’re developing them in conjunction with these treaty processes that they’re going through with the provinces up there, some amazing innovative efforts to re-integrate governance principles, time-honored governance principles that are Indigenous to their own cultures. And it’s really fascinating and I think often we see First Nations in Canada looking to the tribes in the United States to learn from them about how do you engage in nation building, how do you engage in governance reform? And I think what we’re starting to see is that tribes in the U.S. have a...can learn a great deal from First Nations in Canada when it comes to constitutional reform and re-integrating culture. And not just culture in sort of the abstract, but culture in the ways that Indigenous nations lived traditionally, in the ways they thrived traditionally, the sophisticated governance mechanisms they had developed and honed over centuries and millennia to ensure their survival, ensure their prosperity. They’re bringing those things forward and they’re sort of tweaking them, they’re adapting them to meet the challenges that they face today in the 21st century.

So just some more information about some tips on the referendum process and again I think as attorneys this is where you’ll likely play a role. There’s the question of the secretarial election process, which is a federal election and then there’s the tribal election process where the tribal citizens come together and vote on this new constitution. And I won’t go through all these, but here’s an overview of some of the emerging best practices we’re seeing when it comes to the process of constitution reform.

And the one I added here is that when nations, and in particular constitutional reform bodies that they set up, have this conscious thought in mind that, ‘At the foundation of the work that we engage in on constitution reform and in the process of engaging the people about reform, we really need to set it up around two litmus tests of success and that’s trust and ownership.’ And basically the thinking is that, ‘We’ve got to do...we know the people, we’ve got...we know what the deterrents will be to them fully engaging this process. We’ve got to figure out, 'How do we overcome those obstacles, how do we engender in them a sense of trust in the process, which over time will ultimately lead to ownership in the result?’ Trust in the process and ownership in the result, and if you don’t have those things, you’re going to end up with that outcome where it was worse than what you started with."

Patricia Riggs: Making Change Happen at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo

Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute

Patricia Riggs, Director of Economic Development at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP), discusses how YDSP has developed and honed a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to ciutizen engagement over the past decade in order to ensure that the decisions the YDSP government make reflect and enact the will of YDSP citizens.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the Bush Foundation.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Riggs, Patricia. "Making Change Happen at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo." Bush Foundation and the Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. St. Paul, Minnesota. February 6, 2014. Presentation.

Ian Record:

“So without further ado, I want to introduce Patricia Riggs. As I mentioned earlier, Patricia is the Director of Economic Development for Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso, Texas. We’ve worked with Ysleta del Sur for a number of years sort of off and on and we’re often asked to come and teach, do executive education with some of their leadership or program managers and so forth, and what we often find is that we end up learning a heck of a lot more from them than we actually teach them. We consider them one of the breakaway tribes that are really enacting these nation-building principles we’ve talked about and doing it in very culturally distinct ways. Patricia is going to talk about actually making change happen, how did they actually make change happen because they were faced with a crisis about 12, 13 years ago now, 2002, that threatened to really derail the nation and how did they come from that point where, listening to you guys talk, where a lot of your nations are, the struggles that you’re having and how do you actually begin to go down that nation-building road. So without further ado, Patricia Riggs. Thank you very much, Patricia, for joining us and enduring the cold weather.”

Patricia Riggs:

“Thank you very much. I’m really glad to be here. I know I emailed Ian yesterday and asked if it was still on because it was one degrees, and to me that’s like really a catastrophe because we don’t get that kind of weather. So I guess to you it’s pretty normal. I’m here and I’m really happy to be here and I want to share with you some of the things that we’ve done at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. We’ve actually done quite a bit of work over the last 10 years and I know and I feel how you’re struggling to get everybody involved in what you’re doing. So I’m glad to share the practices of the programs, as well as the strategic plans and how we implemented them at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

One of the things that we really truly believe in is citizen engagement and we do it as a comprehensive approach. So we get everybody involved in whatever program or project that we’re working on and at first it was really, really difficult. We really didn’t have a plan, we didn’t have a structure and we just kind of figured it out as we went along, but what we’re doing now is we’re looking back and kind of evaluating our successes and coming up with a model, not just for ourselves, but to share it with other tribes as well, and also teaching that model within our own community to the different programs so that they can follow it.

So as far as community engagement is concerned, we really believe that all our tribal members have to be involved in the planning and decision-making, and especially when it comes to a particular issue. If it’s something that could be life changing for the tribe or has just significant meaning, we make sure that we get that input from our tribal community. And then the other thing is…one of the things is we really try to make sure that it’s not just one group or one person kind of setting the agenda for what we’re trying to change because that involvement from the community is necessary in order to get the buy in for the project. And then also just listening and respecting the community and leadership and elders, all your people that are going to help support this program. So at the end, you get all that feedback that you got for the community and that’s the tool that you use in order to make an informed decision.

So as we worked over the years with the community and we came up with different plans and program models -- as I said earlier -- we looked back and kind of started to look at what we actually did and at first we used things that were like theories and models and things that were developed by academia and what we realized is that all the time we had to tweak them. We were constantly tweaking them to make them meet our needs. So what we determined is really this is what our comprehensive model is at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

First you have to have a purpose and a passion. So we all know our purpose as leaders in our tribe, that we’re there to preserve and to do things for our community so that we can build stronger communities but…and so we all have passion for that, but we also have to break down that purpose into more detailed objective so that we can have a plan for what we’re doing. So we also harvest ideas and input from the community and along the way we have to find those core champions. There’s the people that will help you in the community to get things done and then…

So what you’re doing now with this action plan is you’re visualizing and assessing your community and then you’re going to plan. So you also have to measure the outcomes and impacts and at the end you have to have the data that something changed or that something was improved and you have to report the results. And I have ‘report the results’ at the end, but it actually takes place all the way through.

So this is that same model with a little more background to it. So for us the things as far as purpose and passion, includes really looking at what the Pueblo needs are. So our needs are always about our values and our culture and traditions and governance, but then you also break down those things into the other things that are necessary to survive today. So the purpose or the passion for your particular project could be health, education or in my case economic development.

So in regards to harvest ideas and input, what we really found as we kind of worked with the community is that it really is honoring the people. In the work that we do, we need to honor the people and that’s why we need that community engagement because they have something to say and they also sometimes don’t articulate it in the same way that we do because we’re professionals and we’re trained, but they have input that sometimes you’ve just got to bring out from them. And then also we talk about things like historical trauma and just everything that we have to do to survive as a community. So sometimes it’s really hard to get the ideas and input and get community engaged because they have their own things that they’re dealing with. So we have to find different ways to bring it out.

So one of the things that we do is we always talk about community values and figure out how we’re going to instill those values in the projects that we’re working on. So when you’re working with the community, you’ve got to earn that trust. You’ve got to demonstrate to them that what you’re doing is for the benefit of the entire community. So in order to earn that trust, you’ve really got to listen. When we first started listening, we started listening by doing like small advisory groups and focus groups and as time went on, we found that more and more people wanted to communicate what they felt about what we were doing.

So we started doing surveys and…which is not really a traditional way of getting information, but we made sure that the surveys really had questions in them that people cared about and that were going to benefit out community in the long term. And much to our astonishment, people were answering the surveys and we had these open-ended questions where people were just putting these really profound statements that we couldn’t have said any better. And as we started collecting the information, we found like maybe…we found trends and if it was about rebuilding or re-establishing maybe like old pueblo [style] homes, we kept finding those…people had the same concerns. So we were able to report that out and find consensus in that. And then the other thing is we never said who said what, but we put statements and actual quotes and people began to become proud of their quotes actually being in our reports.

We had a lot of community meetings and we did a lot of study, but we always have to report it out, always. So then what we found is we…you have to have those core champions in your community. You have elders and traditional people and opinion leaders. When you have your advisory groups, you get the people that have a lot of influence in different clans or different parts of the community and we brought them along. We also looked at the different partners, youth, as well as employees, and programs. One of the things that I do want to say about using employees is sometimes when we use employees we don’t realize that we saying, ‘Oh, they’re all tribal so that’s our community.’ But what we don’t realize is the employees are usually the ones that are better off and have bigger incomes and have less need than the people that are really out there in the community. So you’ve really got to be careful to make sure that your groups are really truly diversified.

And so what we’re doing right now, we’re creating these action plans. So we’re visualizing what we want to do, and assessing what our community needs are, in order to make that plan. But really what I call it is a shared dream. We have a shared dream to sustain our cultures and our communities both traditionally and economically and unfortunately nowadays we really have to have an economic foundation in order to save our culture and our languages and our traditions and our ceremonies. So we really...by getting the input from communities, we’re able to visualize and to have that statement and create those goals and mission and vision statements.

Of course you set the goals and do all the traditional things that you do in strategic planning here, and so then we measure our outcomes and impacts and that really is about collective success. We’re a community who all have to have some sort of collective success in order to continue to live as a community. But we do those things like, for example, we teach nation building and we do the pre/post tests and we make sure that we increase the knowledge. If we do financial literacy, we make sure that people are actually saving money and that they’re creating bank accounts. And if we do…we have a VITA [Volunteer Income Tax Assistance] program. So we…but you report all those things out to the community and then you report the results.

We have all kinds of ways that we report the results. We have newsletters, we do community, what we call juntas, which is where the community is informed of certain things both business and traditional doings, but it’s a place where the community has a voice and so we also present whatever it is we’re going to…any big project that we’re going to start working on, we present it there. And we have a really good website also.

This presentation has kind of evolved over time and at first we were just doing the presentation maybe to council and the community and we…parts of the presentation we were doing to…presenting to youth council, but now we’re finding that more and more as we build more programs that are more sophisticated that you have to bring consultants in. And a lot of times, our tribal members don’t have certain expertise, so you have to bring those other people in to help you with your programs.

So these four…the 'Five Rs for Tigua' is what we’re calling them is we’re really advocating that people have a job to do and that they need to do it correctly and that they need to consider the community. Note that whatever you’re working on, you’re representing the entire Tigua community and the Tigua people. You have a responsibility to teach, protect, speak up for, ask, inquire, develop trust and stand up for the community. You have to reach out to the community and you have to teach, educate. Sometimes we go back and forth, it might take a year or two to actually get just the vision for one program. But you have to make sure that it is what the community needs. And then research, and this is mostly for researchers coming into the community, but even us as tribal employees, we have the responsibility to know that there’s cultural issues in research and that culture does matter and that whatever research and data that we collect that we have a responsibility to protect and then of course report the findings.

So I’m not going to go through all of these, but I’m sure you heard them every day in your work. I heard some people talking about negativity and how it is…how hard it is just to get past that, but the fact of the matter is that it’s just actually always going to be there and that you, as hard as it is, we have to find ways to tell people that that’s not actually true because some of these things that are being said are actually misconceptions or aren’t really true because…there are times that I’ve been sitting at the table and we’re discussing how we’re going to develop this new program or change something and people are saying things like, ‘Ah, what does it matter? Nobody cares. Tiguas aren’t going to listen. Tiguas don’t want to learn,’ and just some really negative statements where I think if I was somebody else, I would jump over the table and just kind of slap them upside the head, but you can’t do that, you’re working for the community.

One of the other things is that I know that we all have problems with our council, but sometimes we also use that as an excuse to not move forward. It’s easier just to blame everybody else than to look at our own programs and look at what we’re doing and to determine if there’s ways that we can change things to do better outreach and to educate people and to take more time to explain how things can be changed or things can be better. Believe me, I’ve gone through all kinds of just things with a terrible council, I don’t want to get into it, but there are days that they support me and there are days that they don’t support me at all. So I just have to figure out how to get through it and just keep moving. Otherwise I might as well just throw in the towel.

Does everyone think that sustainable development is a really difficult concept to teach? How do you build better economies? It seems really complex, right? But in reality we’ve been doing it forever. This is sustainable development -- finding ways to use your resources in a way that is best for your community.

This is Taos Pueblo, which somebody just mentioned today, but this community has been there for hundreds and hundreds of years and it’s still there and it’s still being maintained and people are still living there.

This is Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in 1880. Unfortunately, it’s no longer there in that way. What happened is in about 1880 the county decided that they wanted to extend a highway. So they held condemnation proceedings against the tribe and they tore it down and they put the highway right through there. So now actually to go through our ceremonies, we have to go across a busy highway and they have to stop traffic, tribal police stops traffic for us to go into procession to go into our traditional ceremonial places. But we’re still sustaining ourselves and we’re still sustaining our culture and despite all this adversity we’re still doing what we need to do to continue our ceremonies.

So I just can’t imagine what the people felt when the entire Pueblo was being torn down and the kind of adversity that they faced in order to continue our traditions. So we have a lot of adversity in front of us, but there’s been that adversity all the time, and it’s people like us, and it’s people like you that are going to get our people through it. So I’m just saying don’t give up because we’re still here and no matter how much…I’ve gone to bed crying. I never do it in front of community. I’m always like, ‘Suck it up, Pat.’ But I know how it feels to be working so hard for your community and just not feeling like you’re not getting to where you want to be.

I just feel like everything that we’re doing is a test. So we have these big things to do that are a test for our community and it’s a test that other people have already been through and it’s our turn to pass that test. So there’s different ways that we need to do it and one of the things that we do at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is we’re always finding ways to educate the community and to empower the community. So as Ian said, we have all these different seminars, but we’re also now able to put these presentations on ourselves. So we’ve been learning everything that people like Native Nations Institute has showed us, as well as Harvard Project or NCAI, and we’ve tailored just about everything we’ve learned to fit into our community.

The other thing is we go to conferences and we have the opportunity to go to training and get certifications, but our people don’t. So somehow we need to bring those things back and make sure that we teach it in a way that they can understand also. Right now you all are developing programs and your action plans. These are our views of how we see what we need to do to reach our community. Like economic development for example, we want sustainable self-determination. Land use, we do land use also. We have to bring housing, roads and water. And we have social and health concerns, we have cancer, diabetes, and child abuse just like any other Native community. And then we also have education programs and we want to get them from pre-K to get them college bound, and actually become college graduates. And then we have cultural programs as well.

But there are ways that we view it and all those technical aspects of the programs that we’re developing, but you really have to sit back and think about what the community thinks because they’re viewing it different. They have the…a lot of it is not as complex to them and also about what it means to them personally and traditionally and culturally. So we have to find ways to make our programs culturally relevant and change those messages to get it out there to the community. Just keep in mind that they have a completely different view potentially than you do. At the end it might be the same, but how to make sure that you’re on the same page is you…it takes a lot of effort.

In order to harvest these ideas and input, we also have to address the longstanding concerns such as land loss, historical trauma and discrimination. Some of our people or our kids don’t even know that our…their great-grandparents went to boarding school. We have really nice housing and a really nice community, but these…all this housing and new infrastructure is new. All these other things such as historical trauma and…it didn’t go away. You can’t put somebody in a new house and it all of a sudden disappears. So we really try to discuss these things and talk about it even to the youth.

We also honor Indigenous knowledge and make sure in everything that we do we get those expertise from the community to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into what we’re doing. And then just realize…I know that…I think I heard somebody talk about how everybody has different views. So in Native communities, we all don’t think the same so we need to make sure that we get the different views from different community members and that we get those people with the knowledge. So look for those people that can help you with your programs and again earn trust. I can’t stress that enough.

So this is about value systems and as I said I teach this to different people, sometimes with local agencies that work with the tribe, but the top part here is kind of the value systems that everyone has or should have. They’re values from different organizations, maybe tribal…city governments, corporations, but then we also have our own set of value systems and we have to make sure that these things mesh and that they balance in order to get our programs and our goals out there.

A little bit about community engagement. If you invite them, they will not come. This is the flyer method and I did it, too. When I first started I just kind of sent out some flyers and then sat there and talked about how nobody was engaged, nobody cared, and in reality how many flyers do you get or correspondences that you never look at? And if you’re never looking at them, how do you expect to have a different reaction from your community members? So you have to figure out different ways to engage your community.

This is us at work, playing games instead of working, but we’ve developed these different games, traditional games and this is a game that we did with the directors. You can see they’re having a lot of fun, kind of icebreakers and stuff. But the point that I want to make is sometimes we have these inter-agency or director meetings and we start doing all our planning, but we’re not really engaging your community because this is your community -- it’s the people that are out there.

So what we do as far as trying to do effective marketing and getting the community engaged and involved is we actually will host a different series of events and we have different partners engaged. We will take our message to things like Grandparents’ Day. We’ve had like just mini pow wows to show off what the youth can do, and also go to the elder center and take our message to them and try to get people involved in the projects that we’re working on, and just recruit advisory people from even a community picnic. We do a lot of things for the vets also because we’ve also found that they’re just…there’s a lot of leadership there as far as the vets are concerned and so our message is put out there through various ways.

You really have to look for those core champions. You have to work with the youth. We do have a youth council and we teach them the nation-building concepts and we work with youth in entrepreneurship and other ways, but the thing about youth is they all have parents. So when you honor your youth and you demonstrate to them and you have these awards and certificates, their parents come too. And then so we do a lot of things with leadership as well. As I said, we work with elders, with the different program directors and then we also invite traditional people to a lot of our events and we have them give the traditional prayer, we might have them do storytelling or a blessing.

And then we also have the tribal enterprises work with us and we teach this to new employees coming in, but we also teach it to the enterprises as well. So we ask the people that are coming in, especially when they’re outside of the community, to take this training, which actually has about…there’s actually 10 different presentations that we do. We work with them as well and they also sponsor us, but it’s also a marketing and advertising tool for them also.

So these are just kind of again different things that we do. I won’t go over all of them, but of course food always works, and letting people talk, and also we all have our own little kind of tribal jokes that we tell also.

This is just a map that I kind of put out there to try to help you map how you’re going to get your community…you can do it whatever way that you want, but depending on the project, the map might go in different directions to be able to get the input and engagement and support that you need from different community members. I think Ian is going to have this available. We don’t have a whole lot of time. I don’t need to go over that. I think we all know that. But sometimes you get people from the outside that just don’t understand. The reason…teepees might be relevant where you have Sioux, Lakota, but for us we have Pueblos. That stereotypical kind of put some guy on a horse type of thingstill happens from time to time. We actually had one director who was non-tribal that thought that she could incorporate cultural relevancy by just putting the word 'tradition' in front of every bulletin agenda item.

June Noronha:

“Pat, just a question. So when you say not to do it. You’re not saying not to do traditional education, right?”

Patricia Riggs:

“No, it’s actually two different things. What not to do is put the word 'traditional' in front of every bullet item and expect it to be traditional. And then in order to really get out there and figure out what you need to do for your community, you really do have to know the footprint of the community. You need to know everything. What are the community values, what do you think the elders are concerned with, what is this generation concerned with and what is the next generation going to face? We need to know the ancestors and our history and everything cultural and ceremonial and where our sacred places are because everything -- no matter what it is that you’re doing -- it somehow interrelates. And you have to take all those things from the past and all our cultural things and apply them to what we’re doing now.

I have ‘make no assumptions’ out there, because a lot of times we don’t really go out there and study what the needs are. We just kind of make these assumptions based on our own experiences, but you really do have to have a collective measure of what the community needs. And then I have this up here because our communities have always been planning. And so this model, whether we know it or not, it worked in the old days, too. So in our community, we had to build homes. So that was our purpose and our passion, but we had to go out there and we had to look for the clay and we had to get the trees so we had to harvest the ideas from people in the community to figure out where to get those resources from. We had a core of champions that would actually make the things happen and build the architecture in the community and then we had to visualize, assess and plan. Our communities always faced east.

And then we had to measure the outcomes and impacts. We figured out whether we were building homes that were going to sustain the community and then report results. We love to brag. The same thing works with food. We had to plan our acequias. We actually created or established the entire irrigation system, what is in El Paso’s lower valley, which is no longer under our control, but we’re the ones that put the main channels of water systems into that community. And then of course our ceremonies took a lot of planning as well and throughout the year.

Why did we do this? Ian talked a little bit about how we had major problems that we really had to address and that we were kind of dumbfounded on how we were going to move forward. Well, our tribe, because we were situated in West Texas, we were never federally recognized because we were part of the…Texas was in the Confederacy when Abraham Lincoln acknowledged the Pueblos in New Mexico so we got left out. We continued to practice our ceremonies and continued to have a tribal council, but it wasn’t until the 1960s, when we were losing all our homes to tax foreclosure because our properties weren’t on trust and in the 60s we were in El Paso. El Paso was growing around us and everybody in El Paso had electricity and running water except for us. We had this community right in the middle of El Paso and our unemployment rate was 75 percent, our education was fifth grade. We worked in the fields that were once ours to sustain ourselves.

And so we had somebody come in, an attorney assisted us and we were federally restored in 1969, not restored, but recognized. So our economy started to get a little bit better. Our unemployment was by the 70s at 50 percent, which is better than 75 percent and our education started to rise as well. At least we made it to high school and we built our first housing division. When we were recognized, we were also terminated at the same time. I know it’s kind of odd, but Texas had the Texas Indian Commission so the United States transferred the trust responsibility to Texas, but when Texas went broke in the 80s they decided the first thing they were going to do away with was the Texas Indian Commission. So we had to go back to Congress and get federally restored.

So that’s when we decided that we were going to open the casino because Texas had passed a gaming law with the Lottery Act. And there was one small clause in our restoration act that said, ‘The tribe shall not have gaming that is illegal in Texas.’ And with that one sentence they were able to sue and close us down. So for a short time we experienced high employment rates and we had…our unemployment rate went down to five percent, we started building all this infrastructure and housing, we started buying our land back. We went from 68 acres to 75,000 acres and then when Texas sued, they actually won, and most of that is because we were in the Fifth Circuit and the Fifth Circuit doesn’t really have any experience with tribes.

So by 2002, the casino closed and our unemployment rate went immediately up to 18 percent in one year and we haven’t been able to lower it to single digits since then and all our businesses except for the smoke shop were failing so we had to come up with something. So we started doing nation building. And in order to do nation building we really started looking at our…and assessing where we were as a community so we did a lot of data collection and those are one of the surveys that we started getting information from all the community and started having to educate them about how important it was for them to give us this information because we needed to bring more money into the community. Some of the money came in through grants and we needed this money to be able to build other ways to be able to sustain ourselves and we didn’t think that the grants were going to be a long-term solution, but we needed them to have…jumpstart us.

I’m not going to go through all the profile, but just to let you know that we do on an annual basis collect all this data. We know who’s enrolled, what the poverty levels are, what the unemployment levels are and what basically the status of all tribal members as a whole. When we started working on different projects, first we started with a comprehensive economic development strategy, which include economic and community development in both housing and jobs and community development corporation and we established Tigua Inc. to separate business and politics. And then we also created policy and infrastructure that would help the tribe be more successful.

One of the things that we did is we changed our tax code because for some really odd reason the tribe had decided to borrow the State of Texas tax code, which made absolutely no sense and it was way too long and we couldn’t enforce it. So just by changing it we went from like a 200 page tax code to 20 pages. In one year we went from $58,000 in taxes collected to $1.2 million.

And then this is our new Tigua Business Center, which is an incubator for the Tigua Development Corporation, as well as houses Economic Development and that was in Brownsville. There was an old Texas Department of Public Safety maintenance facility and now it’s a LEAD certified energy efficient building. And then just real quick here…

We’re also doing a lot of planning and development in land use. So planning and development and protecting our lands is important to cultural preservation as well as our traditional practices, but we also need land for residential and commercial uses and agriculture and transportation as well. So this is kind of lays out our plan over the next 100 years in a snapshot, but really what the reality is is that we need to preserve Ysleta del Sur Pueblo because we’re in the middle of the city and the city keeps encroaching even more and more on us and we have all these kind of technical things that we need to do, but in the end 100 years from now it’s still about preserving Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and continuing our culture.

We are always continually looking for resources to get this done and planning and this is all the planning that takes place in the modern sense, but I think it was Winona LaDuke that said that, ‘Loss of biodiverse land and natural resources is directly correlated to loss of culture for Indigenous communities.’ So in the end we’re trying to buy back as much land as possible to bring back and to keep those traditional places.

This is just an example of our land use survey and we did different…these are…on the bottom we had these maps and we had the community draw out in certain areas what they wanted the community to look like and then of course we went through a series of different questions. And these are…I talked a little bit about us when we do the reports, we put actual statements. We don’t identify the people. These are also statements. And then what we found as we were talking to the community is that they wanted to see our cultural life cycle built into the way that we planned our community. So we have places for youth to nurture them in our plan and as well as places where people come together to do, like we have a nation-building hub and elder center. And at the end how is our plan going to sustain us into the next generation. And then this is some of the modern areas that look not so nice right now, but these are also areas that are slated for land acquisition that we no longer own and this is a plan of what we can potentially do with them. This real quickly is, everything in yellow is what we own because we have a severe checkerboard situation and we know we can’t buy everything back, but what’s in purple is what we eventually want to look like.

We also do some things around citizenship. In our restoration act also our blood quantum was set at one-eighth. So we had to go back to Congress to remove our…we were one of the only two tribes in the country whose blood quantum was set by Congress. So that was one of the big things that we just recently had passed by Congress, so there’s a lot of planning around that and how we’re going to get everybody on the rolls and also provide services for everyone. And then this is just a little joke for my nephew Chris [Gomez], just saying that people in the community have thoughts and messages to convey, so make sure you get them.”

Carlos Hisa and Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia: Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship (Q&A)

Native Nations Institute

Carlos Hisa and Zeke Garcia from Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP) field questions about YDSP's current community-based effort to redefine its criteria for citizenship, and they provide additional detail about the great lengths to which YDSP has gone in order to document the origins and history of their current criterion for citizenship (blood quantum) in order to make an informed decision about whether/how to change it.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Garcia, Esequiel. "Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship." Tribal Constitutions seminar, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 2, 2014. Q&A session.

Hisa, Carlos. "Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship." Tribal Constitutions seminar, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 2, 2014. Q&A session.

Ian Record:

"We have about 10 to 15 minutes for question and answers before we break for lunch and we have microphones set up here on the...just in front of the panelists here and then there's also one... Steve's got a running mic there in the back. He's quite swift, so here we go, Terry."

Terry Janis:

"Yeah, I'm Terry Janis working with the White Earth Nation on these issues for the last year. First of all, I commend you on getting the information to your tribal members. That's huge if you're going to make a solid decision on this and be a part of it. Two basic questions: one is [audio cuts out for a few seconds] ...conversation that is more about limited resources, right? We have limited resources. If we double the population, will the system take more away from us? How much of that is a part of the conversation and how do you resolve it? And then the second question is have you started thinking about the verbiage of the language of how this phase is going to be laid out? Is it just going to be straight moving to descendency or is there going to be more of a process as was discussed earlier of dislocation, engagement and involvement on the part of being enrolled into citizenship?"

Carlos Hisa:

"To your first question about whether it's a concern about the services we're providing and the cost-benefit or will we really need to adjust, like Zeke said, we did send out a survey and I was astonished with the responses. The descendants don't want to be a burden. They want to do what they need to do for the Pueblo. They want to do their part. We have mentioned to the community that the biggest impact is going to be in health care because in the other areas we have been providing for descendants as we recognize them when it comes to education, when it comes to other things. It's just health care that's going to be the big one and in my conversations to the youth, the descendants out there, they're willing to give that up, for our elders, for those that really need it. So it's not...the discussions haven't really been focused on the benefits we're going to receive by the federal government to more as, 'We're Tigua now, we're going to be recognized as such.' So that's something that...it's unbelievable to me because that's the way I was raised, and for a period of time I thought that was fading away, but it's obviously there. We planted that seed and it's still there. The second question..."

Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia:

"What was the second question?"

Terry Janis:

"It's more about what sort of language are you going to utilize to define citizenship, just straight lineal descendancy language or is there going to be more language on involvement, participation, understanding of community, etc.?"

Carlos Hisa:

"That is the beauty of getting the community involved and having this board because the board consists of elders, people that have been there before in council, individuals that are outsiders that live out of town, descendants. So it's a good group of different aspects. So when the discussions are coming, those questions are brought up. What is a Tigua? To me -- and that's what I always tell my daughters, 'No document that's out there, no blood quantum requirement is going to identify who you are as Tigua.' I said, ‘It's what you do for the community. Your involvement spiritually, emotionally and physically is what identifies you as such.' But that's just me, the way I was raised. We need to hear from everybody.

But those conversations are being held when we have our meetings as a board. I, in the beginning, stepped away and said, ‘I want this board to function on its own.' But I was quickly dragged back into it because it is a sensitive issue and there's a lot of opinions and very...people are very passionate about it, so they're wanting to go out there and implement these type of things. If you want to be a Tigua, this is going to be your responsibility. Like I said, we don't have a constitution. We are governed by oral tradition and the way it's been taught to us in the past is we don't want to put it in writing per se because if you want to know it, you've got to live it. If you want to stay away, well, stay away and once you become...you come, we're always going to embrace you, come over, the doors are always open. But when you start living this way of life and understanding, you understand the essence of what we have in place, you'll feel it, you'll know it. But again, that's just me. That's the just the way I've been taught.

Things have changed, but those conversations are being held, and together as a community I know we're going to come up with something strong, something that's going to stay there for a long time. At the same time, it's not going to be sketched in stone. If there's something that we need to change and learn from, it's all going to...we're going to be able to have that flexibility, but again it's going to have to involve the entire community as a whole. I hope I answered your questions there."

Audience member:

"...And how do you...what are some of the strategies to meet that goal and to say it's the will of our people so that we need to make this decision?"

Carlos Hisa:

"I see the point. What we're trying to...what we're doing, we're in the process of doing is getting all the information together. First, what our people see as identity like he said, one of the things we had on there. Okay, we're going to identify who we are. These components identify who we are as a people. Those are being identified. The survey we have, we're getting that information on there. That's being put together. We don't have the complete report; hopefully by the end of this month we'll have it. The other thing is looking at...showing the community as a whole what the impact's going to be financially. We want to get all that information together and create a...I guess a final decision...resolution to be able to present to the community and say, ‘After all the research that we've done, this is what we see as a council [is] the right way to go,' and present it to the community. And like Zeke said, we have quarterly meetings, and you call them like town halls, where we invite the entire community to come and make decisions on things like this. We will present the information and make a couple of, I guess, suggestions on how we can move about and we'll allow the community to vote on that decision. Again, that's something that we're going to put together and recommend to the community once we have all the information in place."

Ian Record:

"If there's no other questions at the ready, I had a question and it's sort of a leading question because I've been involved with this effort in a very peripheral way, but...and it really speaks to what John [Borrows] was bringing up with basically imploring folks to think about your own histories as you engage this issue. And what I was really struck by in working with Ysleta del Sur last summer is the lengths to which you guys have gone to capture the history of this issue in your community. The number of interviews that you guys have done with the people who are in the decision making roles within your nations back when that blood quantum requirement was first initiated and the sorts of pressures that were being exerted upon the Pueblo at that time because...and I think that's very important and I was just hoping you could speak to that because one of the things we often see as we work with communities, particularly on this issue, is there's a feeling I think, and often I think it's misplaced, that we own this, that this criteria that we're currently using is somehow ours, it's somehow cultural when if, when you go back and do the history like you guys have done, you realize often very quickly that it never was cultural."

Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia:

"When we were doing the research, we had to go back and realize that our presence in El Paso, Texas, was in existence in 1682. There was no blood quantum back then, there was no enrollment number, no enrollment card issued or anything like that. And we had to go back that far to understand where we want to be at. Right now, because of federal monies, enrollment cards are required. Some tribes require a blood quantum as a requirement and we needed to let our community know that, ‘Okay, the ball is in our court. What do you want? Do you want a blood quantum? Do you not want a blood quantum? Do you want to just go through descendency?' And this because of the 1984 act, a lot of our way of thinking was that that was the norm, our blood quantum and some of our tribal members kind of...we kind of accepted that and we felt that we need to continue that. That's why initially we were just reducing our blood quantum and we came to a point when we said, ‘Well, does really a blood quantum determine if you're Tigua?' And that's one of the things that we're facing with right now and our community members are becoming aware. The ball's in our court. What do we want to do? Do we want to continue with that, do we want to change it? And that's where we're at."

Carlos Hisa:

"And in addition to that we...our history is well documented. We have a set of archives and we realize that there was a census back then. We have enrollment documents that date back to the 1800s that have family members from the past on there. But again, there is no blood quantum on there. It just says that they're Tigua, they are part of the community and they kept a list. So a census I think is something that we do need, but it shouldn't be restricted is what we're saying."

Ian Record:

"So I think we have time for one more."

Audience member:

"...I think it's interesting to see the level of...go into the engine that's giving you the...in this conversation. One of the experiences we had in Pueblo Laguna, a couple years ago....constitution...on enrollment was prior to engaging the community about the most substantive issues of what...who is a tribal member, we had to first have a conversation of shifting the thinking of how should we think about this issue because easily these decisions can lead to resources, the lack of resources, power and how we're going to be stretching our resources thin but we realized that as we had this conversation, what is the core values of our people? Are we inclusive or are we exclusive, because our elders didn't have...they hadn't seen the impacts of blood quantum for whatever reason for generations out. Well, we're seeing the impacts of grandchildren who are participants in the culture but they did not have the blood quantum...that door of blood quantum of the tribe or another...down the road. So how to engage the conversation then...first question, how do we...this? We have clans that...Certainly that blood quantum was the issue there and certainly our people didn't...So it's a constant reminder when we had to engage the community in this discussion of let's shift our thinking first and set the foundation of how we're going to think about this. We have to be inclusive of people. That is our way, that is our values and we have to go forward with this citizen discussion with that mindset. So I think that was critical for us to engage the community because it was when we decided to go that direction of monetary resources, well, if we have more people, this is going to mean we get less per capita, whatever. But there was the second...is that are we pushing away the prosperity of people if...close the doors, are we closing off the blessings...responsibilities? So I think it's important to ...that level and focus it as shifting the mindset of how..."

Carlos Hisa:

"I agree. That was something that we were afraid was going to happen so we did the impact study, we did all this research on everything and we still need to present that information to the community we feel, but our community is leaning more towards being Tigua and what we need to do to continue to exist. The real battles I think were back in the day. Right now our battles are not as devastating as they were back then, but this is a battle that we have to face and it's going to determine our future and who we are as a people. And again, and I tell my daughters, I said -- and this is something that's been implemented in my family is where, 'When the Pueblo is good, you do your part. When the Pueblo is struggling, you have to sacrifice, you do more.' And that's what I'm seeing is still something that's very, very strong in our community and it makes me very proud and happy at the same time and gives me just more encouragement to keep pushing forward to get this done. But I agree with what you had to say. Thank you."

Ian Record:

"Well, let's do one last round of applause to our panelists. I think we've learned a lot."

Carlos Hisa and Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia: Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship

Native Nations Institute

Carlos Hisa and Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia from Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP) provide an overview of the approach that YDSP is following as it works to redefine its criteria for citizenship through community-based decision-making. They also share the negative impacts that adherence to blood quantum as the main criterion for citizenship has had on the Tigua community.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Garcia, Esequiel. "Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship." Tribal Constitutions Seminar, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 2, 2014. Presentation.

Hisa, Carlos. "Ysleta del Sur Pueblo: Redefining Citizenship." Tribal Constitutions Seminar, Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 2, 2014. Presentation.

Carlos Hisa:

"[Pueblo language]. Good morning, everyone. Like they said, my name is Carlos Hisa. I'm the Lieutenant Governor for Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. I've been sitting in this role for 14 years, started when I was 12. But our issue didn't really start off as a citizenship issue. It started off more as an enrollment and blood quantum issue. I guess I can start by giving you a little bit of a history of where we come from and who we are as a people. Back in...we're Pueblo people. We're originally from the Albuquerque area. We're one of the furthest of the Pueblos [from] Albuquerque and New Mexico.

Back in 1680 there was a huge revolt. It's called Ysleta...Pueblo Revolt, where the Pueblos united and fought against the Spaniards. During that battle we were relocated to what is known as El Paso, Texas right now. It wasn't by choice, but we were captured and we were relocated down there so our Pueblo has been there since the 1680s. Throughout that time, a lot of different things have happened. I'm not going to go into a huge history, every tribe has their history. I'm just going to touch on the points on why we are where we're at today. The State of Texas became a Confederate state, so during that time the feds were not allowed to come and check on us and see how we were doing so they wrote us off as being extinct, that we weren't in existence anymore. But our people thrived. We were still in the location; we were still being a community, being a tribe, and living our way of life. Because we were identified as extinct, we had to fight for our tribe to get recognized again. In 1968, we were federally recognized, but the trust responsibility was given to the State of Texas. The State of Texas was struggling financially. So in 1987, they went ahead and passed us back to the federal government. The responsibility was shifted from the state back to the federal government. But throughout that time, the State of Texas learned a thing or two about working with tribes and in our case dealing with us.

In order for us to get recognized -- and this is something I believe through the stories that I've been told through my family and other past leaders -- is that the state forced us to get recognized, but with certain limitations and requirements, two big ones. Gaming, we cannot engage in gaming was put in our restoration act. So when we were recognized as a tribe in [1987], we were forced to agree not to have gaming in our lands. Second one was a blood quantum requirement of one-eighth. Our leadership at that time accepted that and we went ahead and operated under that criteria for many years, but soon after this was forced upon us, our leaders realized that the blood quantum was just a way of sort of pushing us out of existence. It wasn't going to work for us so they started many efforts throughout the years to try to change this law by lowering...

The solution back then was lowering the blood quantum one-eighth to one-sixteenth. When I came into office the struggles were...and I was familiar with the struggles because I was involved. I've had different roles in the community. I've always been there so I knew what the issues were. When I came in these efforts were continued and became a priority to the tribal council that I was working with back then. So we pushed the same language that was created back there to lower the blood quantum from one-eighth to one-sixteenth. You've got to remember, El Paso grew around us and so we were...our blood quantum was fading away pretty fast. So when these efforts were being pushed we weren't successful, but one day for some reason me and a tribal attorney got together and said, ‘Why are we asking for one-sixteenth? Why don't we push it to the limit? And we need to be a sovereign nation, we need to practice our rights as a government and let us determine who should be a Tigua. What is going to be that criteria?'

So the language changed from...changing it from one-eighth to one-sixteenth to letting the Pueblo determine who is going to be Tigua and what we're going to set in place to determine who's going to be Tigua. In 2012, President [Barack] Obama...well, we managed to pass it and in 2012, Obama signed the bill where it allowed us to go ahead and determine who our citizens are going to be. We were getting calls from everywhere. The pressure was mounting on council because people thought that as soon as that bill passed that they could come in and be part of the community and be recognized as Tigua. But we sat down as a council and said, ‘We've got to do this the right way.' We have a history of enrollment issues, even from enrolling individuals that weren't tribal. We had to come back and disenroll them and those individuals became part of the family already so we didn't want to go through those struggles anymore. So council said, ‘Let's do this the right way. We want community involvement. We want this to...we want to hear from them to see how far they want to lower the blood quantum, what are going to be the responsibilities of being Tigua, what are responsibilities of the community to the people?' So it became a whole project of identifying citizenship now and determine that criteria. So that's where we're at right now.

When we look at the blood quantum and in my generation and what was going on, we created different classes, a division amongst ourselves, and it was terrible. I'm just going to give an example. I've got three daughters. I started when I was 12 as well. I have a 20-year-old right now, a 16- and a nine-year-old. All three of my daughters have always been involved. They are proud to be Tigua. They're there with me. I think they've done a lot more for the community at their young age than some of the elders that have more of a blood quantum recognized by the federal government, but yet my daughters refuse to take part in the summer programs that we have available to the community, after-school programs, Easter giveaways and stuff like that because the individuals in their age bracket would always tell them that they weren't Tigua because they didn't have the blood quantum, they didn't meet the blood quantum requirements. So that forced my children to stay away. And that wasn't just with my children, that was something that was going on within the community. So it's something we needed to address and end and stop because that's not who we are. As a people, as a community, we need to embrace everybody and provide for everybody and not have that separation. So that motivated us more to try to get this bill passed and it became more of a priority and then to have this change implemented.

So as a council, we got together and we decided to go ahead and have the community involved in this. We also wanted to make this a community decision. We didn't want it to be a tribal council decision, because we hear the stories about individuals being disenrolled from their tribes because of political reasons, per capita reasons, that type of stuff and it's scary and it's out there and exists. So as a council, we decided to make this a community decision. We're going to have a vote. We need to hear what they want, how they want it done and we need to let the community vote because we believe that the council shouldn't have this power to go in there and determine and make changes on the rolls overnight. It needs to be brought back to the community and we need to make changes. So that's what our goal is and that's what we're trying to do.

This is where Zeke [Esequiel Garcia] was tasked with the responsibility of this project that he named Project Tiwahu, and he'll show a slide of where he goes and everything else. And we asked him to go out there and get feedback from the community to see where the tribal council needs to go out and make the changes so we can start enrolling our tribal members. And when this project was assigned to Zeke, he came back to me and said, ‘One of the things we need to identify is what is going to be...who's going to be a citizen. What are the roles of a Tigua?' So it changed more from enrollment criteria, from a blood quantum thing, to more of a citizenship. Where are we going to go from this? What does the community want? And he has started the process. We're moving along. [I'm pretty sure...did I move too fast? How much time do I have? Five minutes. Okay, well I'll donate them to Zeke.] So this is where I'm going to introduce Zeke and let him take over so he can show you what we've been working on, how we're doing it to get the input from the community so we can move forward on there. But, Zeke, the floor is yours. Thank you very much."

Esequiel (Zeke) Garcia:

"Good morning. Our efforts down at the Pueblo, as the Lieutenant Governor was saying, in 1984 we did...we're not a constitutional tribe, we're oral tradition, but in 1984 when they restored our federal recognition we did inherit some very restrictive language that was within that restoration act and it had to do with enrollment. Soon after...for many years we had been submitting bills. In 2011, when we submitted HR 1560, which is the bill that was enacted in August of 2012, the council called me into their office and they said, ‘We need a plan of action. We need to have a way of how we're going to proceed from here forward.' So we put a plan of action, it's not my plan. It's a plan that's inclusive of our council. The first order of business that we ended up doing was -- and it's in your packet -- we passed a tribal council resolution. And in that resolution we set objectives, specifically what Project Tiwahu -- even being sensitive to our culture termed it with a cultural name -- and we set those objectives, what we were setting out to do.

One of the objectives was to establish a board. It wasn't an appointed board, although there were some appointed members, but we did go to the community. We sent out a letter to community members living on res as well as out of the state, and we got a good response and some of those community members were selected.

The second objective was to, of course, knowing that the enactment of HR 1560 and doing away with the blood quantum, we knew we had to do revision to our enrollment policy so that was another objective that we put in our resolution. Most importantly -- as the lieutenant governor was saying right now -- was to garner community input. This wasn't going to be my decision -- although the responsibility fell on the enrollment office or tribal records office, it didn't fall under the tribal council office as well -- but it needed to be a community decision and that was one of the biggest things that we set out to do.

Not because the lieutenant governor is sitting next to me do I want to score brownie points, but one of the things that I really admire about our current council, as well as previous councils, is that in no way did they relinquish power, authority by handing this over to the community and making a decision. If anything, they incorporated a team effort or inclusive in reaching out to the community. So that's one of the things that I really admire about our leadership.

The other thing was...the other objective that we set out was to assess our tribal programs. As he was mentioning earlier, we receive federal monies and those federal monies are there to serve an enrolled population and we have a descendant population of course, those that were less than the one-eighth. For many years we have...our office has been tracking that information. Our Pueblo has this practice on an annual basis for our enrolled members to come and update. When they do their update, we give them a questionnaire and we get information: education, financial, household compositions -- we just get a lot of information from them and what we lacked was the descendants. So in 2010, even before our bill was passed, it blew me away, our leadership sent out an executive memorandum to my office and said, ‘You need to start issuing out descendant ID cards to our descendant members.' And with that, that was our way to capture the information on our descendant members.

So in assessing our tribal programs, we need to determine what needs were out there, what services we were providing to our descendants, what services we weren't able to provide because of restrictions within those federal monies to an enrolled population. And we...actually not we, I wasn't even...well, my office indirectly was a big part of it in providing the information that I was collecting, but Linda Austin and her efforts and the council put together a budget impact and that budget impact is also on your packets there. And what we were able to determine there is if we were to project the numbers that we had on our descendants and we were to enroll them and begin providing services, what impact would be on our budget, our current monies for each of our programs. So that was very instrumental, that budget impact. It really opened up our eyes; it opened up...it gave us a better understanding of our descendant population. For instance, we were able to determine that we had a younger population within the descendants as opposed to enrolled members, which were much older.

The other objective that we resolved on the resolution was a citizenship campaign, and because we were dealing with descendants -- that as the lieutenant governor mentioned that had distanced themselves, even those living within the res, those that were living out of state were much more disconnected because of course maybe annual visits, they would come to the reservation during our feast days. We had to do a...our board and the facilitators that were helping me out, we understood that we had to have some kind of citizenship campaign, an awareness, an educational component to it to where we would give them information.

One of the results from that was this informational guide. I believe this informational guide is in your packet. And through this guide we were able to educate both our enrolled members as well as our descendant members, what this whole citizenship...the process that we were going to take. We were able to give them historical information regarding the tribe, how we came to be if you will, and also a portion of the budget impact was also given out. We wanted to give them the statistics on our blood quantum, how many numbers, how we were being reduced, and all that good information.

Within that citizenship campaign, we also conducted internal research -- the facilitators, myself, Linda and another intern that we have within the tribe. We were able to conduct interviews to have a better understanding of what had transpired in our enrollment office, what resolutions had been passed since the restoration act, what issues our enrollment was faced with and that was a very eye opening experience for us. As we conducted interviews with key individuals that were involved with the federal recognition or restoration, we would hear the same things from each one in a different perspective and it really opened up our eyes to better understand again, we're looking at making a decision for our future, we need to understand what we did in the past and that was a great thing that...that was very important and instrumental and now that as we go forward and we're looking at making these decisions, it gives us a better understanding on how to proceed.

The other thing that came with those interviews was an internal report. It's not in your packet. Like Ian [Record] was saying, it's kind of lengthy, but that internal report was...Linda and myself were able to work on that and that was more of a historical...as the lieutenant governor was giving you the story, we also felt we needed to put it on paper and more or less educate our membership as to our history, how we came to be since the early years of 1682 that we got established there in Ysleta, Texas.

These are some of the steps. Where are we at right now? This past December, we issued out a Pueblo-wide questionnaire, a survey, and this is where we're getting the input from the community. Right now currently, we're in the process of analyzing those results, but that survey, of course it's not in your packet because it's a lengthy survey, but it's a very...these are basic questions. We have four parts to it. The first one was identity. How do our tribal members identify themselves as Tigua? Is it the services that we rendered or is it something...your culture, your practices, if that's what it makes them.

So we asked those questions. We asked questions about enrollment, whether we wanted to keep a blood quantum, whether we wanted to get rid of a blood quantum, whether we wanted to reduce a blood quantum. In 1984, a very important issue, when the base roll was created, there were some people that were left out and now this day and age how do we want to deal with that issue? Do we want to extend enrollment to them? And this is what we need to...the kind of feedback that we need from our tribal community. That survey is very instrumental. It also...because of if we do extend enrollment to descendants that means that our population would double. Right now our enrolled population at Ysleta del Sur is 1,732 and our descendant population is just right there. There's just an eight different...and they're out there. I know they're out there because for whatever reason they haven't made their way into our office. So I can more or less estimate about another 200 individuals that are out there.

So our descendant population has already surpassed our enrolled population. And how are we going to proceed? If we do enroll these people, if we do enroll our descendants that would mean that we have more people. According to the bill that was signed, we were in agreement that we're not going to receive any extra funding from the federal government to provide services, so how do we manage that? And this is what the community needs to know as well. We that work within the tribal government, we have a good grasp of what it entails, but our average tribal member out there, they may have an idea, a slight idea, or they may not have it. We want to make sure that we convey that information to them because ultimately it does impact us that are enrolled and it impacts those that would be enrolled as well.

Those are our efforts that we're doing right now at Ysleta del Sur. I'm very pumped with this whole issue. I have seen nothing but support both from our council and from our community members. You have to keep in mind that this topic has been a big issue since our restoration back in 1984 and people, our tribal members, are willing to talk about it. When we have our quarterly Pueblo juntas that we come together as...a town hall meeting, if you will, and we come together as a community, we've talked about those issues and now that this bill was filed and now that we have this Project Tiwahu underway, tribal members are...you see them more giving their input and wanting to share and it's a hot topic right now within our tribe and we just look forward to coming to some resolution by this year. If not, we're in no rush. That's one other thing is that the bill was enacted in 2012; we're in 2014. The whole thing here is that we're going back to the community, we're informing them, we're letting them know what's going on and whenever our grandfathers feel that it's a good time to make the decision, we'll make that decision and we'll proceed."

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development

The Tigua Indians of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in Ysleta, Texas produced this 16-minute film in 2013 to demonstrate how a Native American tribe can work hard with business skills and tribal customs to shape a prosperous future through education for all levels of the Tigua Nation.

Native Nations

Riggs, Patricia. "Rebuilding The Tigua Nation." Honoring Nations, Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development. Capstone Productions Inc. El Paso, Texas. February 27, 2013. Film.

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

June 13, 2011



“We are the People of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. We came from the open lands of what became Central New Mexico and now we live in West Texas and our lands are surrounded by El Paso, Texas.”

Saint Anthony
Feast Day


Ysleta Mission


“In 1680 the Spaniards forced our ancestors to move here. They built this mission church in 1682.”

Javier Loera:

“In this display we have photographs and images of our mission, of our church, which we helped build. The oldest image, it’s actually a drawing, that we have of our mission is this one in the year 1881. It was a very simple structure without the added bell tower which was added a couple years later.”


“For more than 300 years our people have performed corn dances on June 13th at the Feast of St. Anthony.”

[Singing/bell ringing]

Carlos Hisa:

“It’s the way of life, it’s who we are, we’ve been doing this for hundreds of years and we just continue to do it. It’s who we are as a people.”

[Singing/bell ringing]


“The Tigua People honor our ancestors who kept the ceremonies and traditions, also the traditions of the elaborate feast preparations, which takes weeks to prepare for. Our people come together to share in the responsibilities to prepare for the feast, which is served after the rituals and blessings at the mission. These activities show that our tribe keeps the customs and practices that we have always valued. We now live in a modern world and must balance traditions with the present day needs. The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has proven strong willed and has persevered over the changes of time.

Tiguas have been faithful to our traditions, sometimes hiding our ceremonies to avoid punishments from non-Indians. Our people have proven to be resilient time and again in our extraordinary struggle for cultural preservation.

Our struggle continued into the 1960s when a lawyer named Tom Diamond helped us get federal and state recognition as a Native American tribe.

As a declaration of tribal sovereignty and economic development efforts, the Pueblo decided to enter into casino gaming in 1993 and our financial future brightened. The State of Texas fought our right to have gaming in Texas and through a federal lawsuit managed to shut the Pueblo’s Speaking Rock Casino in 2002. The casino was profitable while in operation and provided for better healthcare, housing and education of tribal members. The Pueblo still runs Speaking Rock, but now it operates as an entertainment center.”

Trini Gonzalez:

“Speaking Rock has kept us afloat during this economic struggle, both money wise and also creating jobs for our tribal members. The success would have to be free concerts. We’ve used the concerts to draw people in to actually show people that Speaking Rock isn’t closed. A lot of people were saying, ‘Oh, it’s closed. It’s not a casino no more.’ Which it isn’t, it’s an entertainment center and we do provide quality entertainment for free to customers who come in here.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“Well, when we look across Indian Country we see a consistent pattern of the tribes who get their act together and really worked successfully to improve the economic and social and political and even cultural conditions in their communities and Isleta del Sur Pueblo stands out as one of these examples. They show first what all these successful tribes have is a sovereignty attitude. Their idea is, ‘We’re going to do things ourselves. We are a sovereign nation and we can govern ourselves. We’re going to take those reins and we are going to put ourselves in control of absolutely everything we can.’

Secondly, and you see this at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, they recognize that you can talk the talk of sovereignty and nation building, but you’ve got to walk the walk and what that means is you’ve got to be able to govern yourselves and govern yourselves well. And Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is an Honoring Nations award winner because it has invested very systematically in building its governmental capacity, its laws, its ordinances, its regulations, its accounting systems, its personnel policies, its judicial system in a systematic way to say, ‘We’re going to put ourselves in position so we’re not dependent on any other governments.’”


“Ysleta del Sur Pueblo has been building the capacity for economic growth. It has established structure and policy such as a highly capable economic development department, a small business development program and tribal ordinances dealing with corporation establishment and tax laws. The Pueblo was restored as a federally recognized tribe in 1987. Our goals are to preserve our culture, sustain our community and raise the standards of living for tribal members. We have built capacity over the years and recently established our long term economic development and nation building goals. Our entire Pueblo had input on the process.”

Patricia Riggs:

“We started this process to change and transform our community and through economic development, through education and through services and infrastructure so it was a whole comprehensive strategy that took place at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“Ysleta del Sur, what you see is another thing we see across Indian Country more and more and that’s an attention to culture, making what we call cultural match. The way they govern themselves here at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is under a traditional structure with no written constitution. There is no contradiction for the Tiguas between having their traditional cacique system, no written constitution and running a very good day-to-day government because it’s founded in that traditional system. And having that cultural foundation underneath your government is absolutely critical. If it isn’t there, you’re not legitimate in the eyes of your own people and Ysleta del Sur stands out for recognizing that in everything they do they’re doing it based on and flowing from their traditions, their culture, their traditional governance systems. And then lastly, Ysleta del Sur also shows a fourth thing that stands out with tribes that are successful—leadership. Leaders not only as decision makers, but leaders as educators and the leadership at Ysleta del Sur has systematically invested in everything from the broad community to the youth with education on what it means to be a self governing Tigua nation. And so Ysleta del Sur Pueblo stands out for that sovereignty attitude, for strong capable tribal government founded on the tribe’s culture with a leadership that understands it needs to educate the people as to what this sovereignty game is all about.”


“In order to become effective in the modern world, the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is striving to become a self determined and self sufficient Pueblo while preserving our cultural foundation. With our economic development plans now in motion, we have taken the first steps in forging a prosperous and strong Tigua nation and we have established Tigua, Inc. that operates tribal businesses.”

John Baily:

“We are the business arm for the Pueblo itself. We manage and operate all the business functions that contribute to the success of the Pueblo. We’re able to focus on a long term strategy and build that for five, 10 years out and really start implementing plans as we go down. So our goal is to develop the long term stream of profit and revenue that is repeatable regardless of the environment we’re in. We’re for real. We’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.”


“Is it going to hurt?”


“No, you’ll be fine.”


“We have increased our administrative abilities and have created a grants management and program development branch of the Economic Development Department resulting in programs that provide health and other services.”

Al Joseph:

“And we’ve managed to build 63 new housing units last year after a big infrastructure project the year before so we’ve got a lot of projects going on to the total of about $20 million worth right now. The quality of life for the average Pueblo resident I think has been greatly enhanced by the combination of construction of new housing, very affordable housing and the rehabilitation of 160 houses on the reservation has definitely improved the quality of life for the residents that have been living in those houses, some of them for as long as 35 years. They now have modern, up-to-date housing that everything works and it’s a much nicer place to live.”


“One part of the economic development of the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo is the attention our tribe gives to educating tribal members on various subjects in order to improve individual quality of life and skills for all age groups.”

Christopher Gomez:

“Things are different now because we’ve gotten on the nation building path now where we’re doing a lot of long term visioning, we’re thinking beyond what’s coming ahead the next month, the next year and we’re thinking 20, 30, 40, even 100 years down the line. What do we want Tigua culture to be in a hundred years? Where do we want to see our community? That visioning has really put things into a different perspective.”



“With our Tigua youth, we stress tribal traditions and working together.”

Christopher Gomez: [to students]

“Here we have language, social dances, Pueblo arts, Tigua history, nation building, tutoring, traditional culture, Native American games, environmental issues…”

Christopher Gomez:

“We’re thinking about the next generations now. Just like we were left a legacy from the generations that came before us who established the Pueblo, we want to make sure that we’re continuing that legacy and that our people are able to in a changing world adapt and utilize new skills to be able to carry forward the Tigua legacy and really define what that Tigua legacy is.”


“Our younger children learn about computers and nature from tribal program experts. We have established new programs such as pre-K and modern care facilities where children are taught general education and tribal traditions through tribal arts and crafts. At the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo education for our people goes hand in hand with our economic development because as we increase our understanding of Native American heritage and strengthen the businesses of our tribe, we multiply the return to our people many times. It is a great time to be a Tigua as we graduate more members from college and create higher paying jobs. Outcomes include increased revenues and more programs and better tribal member services.”

Joseph P. Kalt:

“One of the things that Ysleta del Sur has done in its nation building efforts is it’s bootstrapped itself into this little engine that could, is it’s invested in communication and you can…any of us can go to their website and in their economic development section you’ll find a systematic laying out of the many steps that they’ve taken from community education, youth programs, the development of their strategic plans, the development of their laws and ordinances, the development of their new institutions, even their financial development. So Ysleta del Sur is doing a service to all tribes by providing this information in an easily accessible way and I encourage anyone who’s interested in how Ysleta del Sur has bootstrapped itself in this way, it’s on their website and it’s just a tremendous resource for anyone engaging in this challenge of building native nations.”

Trini Gonzalez:

“Recently we just got accepted by our brothers up north into the AIPC, the All Indian Pueblo Council and a lot of the Pueblos up there model themselves after us. They see that we’ve been a…I guess a big hitter here in our economy and the way we go after grants and the way our money is utilized, the housing that we do, the entertainment center the way it’s operated, our smoke shop. Everything that we do, it’s being looked at and dissected and I think that’s a huge feather in our cap to say that they’re looking at us to try to correct some things on their reservations.

The powwow enlightens a lot of people on the culture, the dance, the regalia, everything that has to do with a powwow let’s people know there is a tribe here in Texas and it’s Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.”


“In May 2012 our Economic Development Department opened the Tigua Business Center on tribal land in a renovated building.”


Frank Paiz:

“The Tigua Business Center demonstrates the will and spirit of the Tigua people to grow and prosper. The tribal journey began at the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which resulted in our migration to an establishment of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo 1682. Since, we have been determined to preserve and continue Tigua way of life and flourish as a community."


“As our Tigua nation becomes stronger, we will continue our traditions and our success in this modern world.”

Carlos Hisa:

“We are Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. We are a community strong with tradition and culture. We have survived in the area for over 300 years and with economic development behind us, I can very easily say that we will continue to be here for hundreds of years.”


Rebuilding the Tigua Nation

2012 Tribal Council
Cacique Frank Holguin
Governor Frank Paiz
Lt. Governor Carlos Hisa
War Captain Javier Loera
Aguacil Bernando Gonzales

Chris Gomez
David Gomez
Francisco Gomez
Trini Gonzalez

Saint Anthony Dancers
Feast Preparation
Trini Gonzales Tribal Councilmen
Adult Tribal Social Dancers
Joe Kalt Harvard University
Youth Nation Building
Youth Financial Literacy Class

Pat Riggs, Economic Development Director
John Baily, CEO of Tigua Inc.

Tigua Inc. Board
Ana Perez, chair
Chris Gomez
Rudy Cruz
George Candelaria
Al Joseph

Housing Director Al Joseph
Empowerment Director Christopher Gomez
Cultural Center Dance Group
Tuy Pathu Daycare children
Pre-School Dance Group
Pow Wow Dancers

Patricia Riggs

Jackson Polk

Aaron Barnes
Fernie Apodaca
Jackson Polk

TV Facilities
Capstone Productions Inc.

Funding provided by Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development Honoring Nations

Rebuilding the Tigua Nation © 2013 Yselta del Sur Pueblo

Jim Gray and Patricia Riggs: Citizen Engagement: The Key to Establishing and Sustaining Good Governance (Q&A)

National Congress of American Indians

Presenters Jim Gray and Patricia Riggs field questions from audience members about the approaches their nations took and are taking to engage their citizens and seed community-based, lasting change. In addition, session moderator Ian Record offers a quick overview of some effective citizen strategies that the Native Nations Institute has encountered in its work with Native nations across the country, and leaves audience members with some questions to consider as they assess how their nations are engaging their citizens. 

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the National Congress of American Indians.

Resource Type

Gray, Jim. "Citizen Engagement: The Key to Establishing and Sustaining Good Governance (Q&A)." 70th Annual Convention & Marketplace, National Congress of American Indians. Tulsa, Oklahoma. October 15, 2013. Presentation.

Riggs, Patricia. "Citizen Engagement: The Key to Establishing and Sustaining Good Governance (Q&A)." 70th Annual Convention & Marketplace, National Congress of American Indians. Tulsa, Oklahoma. October 15, 2013. Presentation.

Ian Record:

“You know, one of the things that really sticks out for me having worked with the Pueblo over the last several years is this use of focus groups and I was honored to be part of one such focus group that they convened about three and a half years ago. It was real interesting. They brought in a mix of folks: tribal leaders, leaders of the Pueblo, employees of the Pueblo, and just your average Joe citizens. And I remember when we were doing this focus group, one of the citizens became very emotional because she said, ‘This is the first time my Pueblo has actually asked me what I think. They actually care about my opinion and my view on where we are and where we want to head.’ And basically what she was saying is, ‘I have a voice and I matter.’ And I think that’s really the theme that I hear out of both of these wonderful, ongoing success stories is about restoring the voice to the people and figuring out not just about hearing that voice but, 'How do we actually actualize that in the governance of the nation? How do we put that into practice?' And that’s really what she’s staying up here. It’s not just garnering the tribal information, the voice of the people, but actually using it. How do we actually use that, how do we actually put that into play, how do we actually make that real, not just today, but into the future?”

Mark Macarro:

“My question is for Jim. Glad to see you used a movie quote, by the way. My question’s about the…I guess in the process of trying to reach a consensus or actually maybe it wasn’t the consensus point, it was the point where you tried to get moving past the status quo. Was there a rationalization by the head rights people that we shouldn’t do this because this is our custom and tradition, this is what we do, this is all we know and it’s who we are? But this is really a question about planting the flag of custom and tradition and using that as a reason for resisting the change. Did you encounter that in particular?”

James R. Gray:

“Oh, yeah. We really did and I would say the biggest part of it was tied to…what I wanted to make sure came across very clear was that the form of government that in 1906 the federal government imposed on us was not one of our choosing. We had a constitutional government before that and we had a three-branch government. We had our court system, we had law enforcement, we had all the elements of jurisdiction in place, and because of other reasons, the United States government abolished that unilaterally, illegally, as a part of their effort to try to bring all the tribes under allotment for statehood and breaking up the tribal land holdings was very difficult for the Osages because the full-blood faction would not ever gonna go along with allotment and it’s a historical fact that there was a lot of Osages enrolled out of nowhere, just suddenly started showing up as Osages. Another election was held, the next thing you know we went from having 1,000 Osages to 2,229 Osages. The new council that got in tried to fight it. In 1911, I think, the unilateral authority of the Indian agent at the time obliterated the members and installed interim council people because they weren’t going along with what was expected of them by the Indian agent.

I think the Osages by that time, when the oil was discovered and the money started coming in and the Osages started getting murdered in large numbers, most of them were people with numerous head rights that in today’s dollar were valued at a million dollars a year, much like the per capita distribution for Pechanga citizens. No, I’m just kidding. What I was saying was that there was what they called the 'reign of terror.' It was one of the first cases the FBI actually investigated was the complete and utter wipeout of Osages to get their money. It’s a historical fact. My mom was an orphan in 1925. My dad was an orphan in 1928 and my dad and mom’s stories aren’t unique in the Osage storyline. And you hit the period of time when they weren’t even allowing Osage women to participate in Osage elections. So not only were you…had to be Osage to have a head right, but you also had to be an Osage man to be able to participate in elections. Osage women could get a head right, but they couldn’t vote. All those changes occurred after World War II, so there was a steady drumbeat of slow but sure progress, but at the same time knowing that if Osages pushed too hard, there was going to be consequences: wipeout of your tribal council, the complete indifference of the BIA while your own citizens’ homes were being blown up and murdered on the street. My great grandfather, Henry Run Horse, was taken out in the countryside and shot in the head. These are common stories. Every one of these stories as tragic as they were resulted in Osage losing another head right.

In 1978, the tribal council was able to get to the U.S. Congress to amend the 1906 Act to make sure that no more Osages would be able to, no more non-Osages would be able to inherit any part of an Osage mineral estate again. So we had to go 70 plus years into that period of time at which we probably lost maybe a fourth to a third of those head rights during that period of time to what are now defunct oil companies, non-Indian spouses who’ve moved on and married on and still collect a head right check. Jean Harlow, the famous actress, some Osage fell in love with her in Kansas City and he died unfortunately, willed his head right to her. Unfortunately for her, she died shortly after that, didn’t have any heirs. IIM maintained Jean Harlows’ estate for years. These kind of stories are just…the Catholic Church owns several dozen head rights. Non-Indian wealthy landowners in Osage County own many head rights. Businesses like Phillips Petroleum Company own head rights. If Osages were a little reluctant for any radical change even as late as 2004 and ‘05, I have to give them some credit, because living memory of many of these people seeing all these changes occur and it was just a matter of getting to a moment of crisis, and that crisis was that last original allottee mark. Nobody knew the answer to that question when the last allottee died and in 2004 when [President George W.] Bush signed the bill into law, we only had one left. So if there was anyway to kind of get past that point to go forward and really move it, it was that critical issue, in my opinion. There may have been other people with different opinions but that was one of my [observations].”

Ian Record:

“Next question. I think we had the lady in front. Minnie, did you want to…”

Lenora Hall:

“Hello. My name’s Lenora Hall, I’m from the Smith River Rancheria in Northern California where the redwoods are. I’m just wondering, you went from -- this question is for Patricia [Riggs] -- you went from 68 acres to 78,000 acres. Did you have any, how much of that 78,000 acres is in trust now? What have you done? Are you buying land and seeking trust status with it? Because I seen a lot of them had economic enterprises on them, which are real lucrative and stuff and so I’m wondering what the status of your land is.”

Patricia Riggs:

“Well, we went from 68 acres that was conveyed into trust to 75,000 acres. 70,000 of those acres are a ranch and it’s not in trust. We’re working for it to be put into trust, but from those 68 original acres in trust we have something like 3,700 acres in trust. So we’ve got quite a bit of land into trust. One of the places that we put back into trust is an area called Waco Tanks and it’s a mountain. It’s a mountain that is sacred to us and unfortunately we couldn’t get all that mountain, it’s a state park, but we were able to get the back side of the mountain and put that back into trust and all our residential areas are in trust as well. The ranch is a working ranch, but there is also some significance as far as traditional places and where we go to gather different plants and things and hunting as well.”

Ian Record:

“Other questions? Sherry, go ahead.”

Sherry Salway Black:

“So Pat, and this is for both, but Pat you talked specifically about measuring impact and evaluation, like how do you know you’ve been successful? So I would ask that in the sense of how much are people participating now? So you’ve done the education, you’ve done the focus groups. So for your citizens, do you have high percentage of citizens voting in elections? So just again, how are you measuring your citizen participation on an ongoing basis?”

Patricia Riggs:

“Well, one of the things that we don’t measure officially, but participation in cultural events and ceremonies, I would have to say it’s more than doubled. We used to maybe have 50 dancers, now the line is so long and getting really hard, because we actually jog kind of through the streets and it used to be a short little jog, but now it’s so long you can barely jog. But the other thing is we also measure impact as far as how much more revenues are coming to the tribe, how much more taxes are coming to the tribe, how many more people are enrolled in college and coming to tribal meetings and things like that. So I’ve just pretty much learned to count everything, even when I’m participating in ceremony, I’m counting.”

Jim Gray:

“Shortly after the constitution was passed we had that kind of deer-in-the-headlights look on ourselves after the election was over and we were all sworn in it’s like, ‘Okay, now what do we do? We’ve been fighting this battle for 100 years.’ We got together and I put my cabinet together, it was the first time a chief got to put a cabinet together in 100 years. So a lot of new stuff was occurring and I realized there was a sense of historical importance in all the little things that I was doing in establishing new protocols for the executive branch, little things mattered in terms of how we addressed ourselves and how we separated the political appointees from the career employees and started drawing those distinctions in HR [human resources] policies. But I think the thing that really I recall the most was a desire to go back into the communities again, and this time not for a constitution that would require a referendum vote, but for a general direction to give us a plan, a strategy plan, and Pat used the term master plan, but a plan nonetheless that everyone had some ownership in. And we kind of brought back the old bunch of government reform, we brought in a bunch of new people that had been left out of the process before and we went back out there with what we called the 'Team of Teams' and we asked for a million dollar budget. Congress gave us half of it with the conditions of seeing certain things happen within six months and we all had to be very careful, but very specific at how we did this. And so we generated a strategic plan that would last for 25 years generally combined into six areas; education, health care, economic development, mineral and natural resources, governance and justice, and cultural preservation. And in each one of them they had a set of projects, in each six of those categories. And each one of those six categories were bunched up into three different categories of short term, midterm, long term. So each one of them had about 50 different projects assigned to it, everything from going after your water rights to establishing citizen input, citizen rights like a bill of rights kind of process to establish stronger justice systems. We didn’t have an AG [Attorney General] office at the time so there was a lot of institution building that called for…that came out of that. Updating our entire master campus plan, which was going to be a huge undertaking, because that campus had been a hodgepodge of trailers and metal buildings that we got from CDBG grants 30 years ago that we’re still using them and they leak like a sieve and their constant care of maintenance is just draining the tribe’s properties budget. So it took us years to kind of draw these conclusions about revitalizing our language program, revitalizing all these different categories, compacting our health clinic, taking greater control of the mineral estate. There was just this…but we wouldn’t take on anything big unless we went back out and talked to the communities again. And that’s how this whole thing kind of became part of what I believe is a new expectation that our citizens have of their tribal government. ‘If you’re going to do anything big, you better come out and talk to us.’ That seems to be the attitude now and I think that’s stuck.”

Audience member:

“I was wondering, how do you…you have a significant part of your membership out in the world, you said there’s Osages everywhere. So how do you communicate with them? How do you get them involved? That’s part of your whole thing is involvement.”

Jim Gray:

“Well, there’s one thing that has happened in the last 10 years that I think we all to some degree have become more familiar with and it’s social media.”

Audience member:


Jim Gray:

“Obviously we have people’s addresses, they get the newspaper every month. That was the traditional way. The advent of our expansion of our tribal website, [we were] able to put archived audio of council meetings and videos of special events that the tribe would undertake that anybody who wanted to can participate. It was kind of a one-way communication to them.”

Audience member:

“And did you say that your meetings are open?”

Jim Gray:


Audience member:

“Oh, okay. So anybody in the world, any Osage in the world or non…?”

Jim Gray:


Audience member:

“Anybody can tap in and listen to your meetings?”

Jim Gray:

“…which that 'anybody' part has been the subject of a lot of debate too but…”

Audience member:


Jim Gray:

“…The thing is that in this day and era where we live it’s impossible to live on an island. You’re just going to have to embrace the fact that everyone’s going to know your business eventually. There’s so many public records, public documents, there’s Freedom of Information Act laws in our tribe, anybody can apply for them. And the tribal newspaper being an independent body can go get things and disclose it in their newspaper, which everybody can get. They’re members of the AP [Associated Press], it could be picked up. There’s just…don’t fight it, just accept it and go on.”

Audience member:

“Do you have council members who live in different parts of the world that can be on the council or do you have to live within the service area of the Osage?”

Jim Gray:

“We have election of councilmen at large, so the top six in staggered terms get elected and then another six in another staggered term get elected. There’s been a lot of discussion about district voting. When I told you we had a referendum vote before the big vote, that was one of the questions and the people by a large margin voted for at-large votes.”

Shawn Bordeaux:

“Good dialogue. I hate to break it up here. Especially for Pat, but Chief Gray, please comment as well. I’m from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and I work at a tribal college, Sente Gleska University, and we have engaged with our 20 communities about 130 miles by about 50 miles. We have five counties that we have roughly a million acres in and when you look at a map it just shows one of the counties and a lot of the development happens in that county and my question is about priorities. We have 135 hours of comments from when we went out as a tribal college and filmed, as you’re doing, all the ideas that people have and now the question is it’s a tug-o-war. When you’re a very big community, do you take care of the neediest first or do you develop where the revenues will lead to other opportunities to go to the bank and to continue to develop? I’m just kind of curious. You did a really good job of taking the flyer failure, I had to say it, but we have that problem, where some people don’t show up and I like your strategy of going to the little groups, but how do we get this tug-o-war…? How do we get past there where we say, ‘Okay, you guys, you’re coming in 30 years. We know you’re farthest away from the tribe, but you’re not going to be developed first.’ So I’m struggling trying to figure out how to help our community to set a priority list.”

Patricia Riggs:

“Well, as far as housing is concerned, that’s a real priority for us, but we’ve determined different ways to bring housing to the community. Of course we have HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development], but then it becomes very limited because we have this group of people that don’t qualify for HUD, but yet they can’t get affordable housing. So one of the things we did is we tried to diversify the way in which we brought housing to the community and we brought investors to do the low-income tax credits units. We also have housing, but then council is also, what they’re doing is some of the HUD housing that’s already paid off, they’re buying that back from tribal members who may be elders and then they’re reselling it to other tribal members. And we also have…we’ve started to…we’ve contacted the BIA and HUD to do the low income, not the low income, but the guaranteed loans. So we’re also looking at different ways to…maybe some of the elders, move them out of housing and bring in an elder center, but also bring in more housing around our ceremonial areas because what…so that’s one of our priorities is to rebuild our ceremonial areas in the places that were once villages around the ceremonial areas, because in order to protect our ceremonial places we need people there. So that’s one of the ways that we prioritize. Eventually what we want to do is rebuild some traditional houses around our ceremonial areas, bring the elders back there. But then we’re also thinking about, as far as priorities, the places that make the most sense for us are the places that are going to fill in those gaps where our original land base, in the core. We’re calling it the 'core' of our community. So we determined that that was going to be a priority for us. And then also to build either through commercial areas -- we know that it’s coming, so we’re just thinking, 'Why not do it ourselves?' And some of what you saw there was some of the boulevards that are closest to our community. So what our plan is is to invest and then be able to reinvest for more land acquisition, even if we have to lease to retail areas and things like that. So our priority for us is to protect those places that are most traditional and the core of our community and then to move outward and to fill those little gaps as well.”

Jim Gray:

“Real quick. One of the things that we were very blessed with at the time of our constitutional reformation was the fact that simultaneously, while that was going on, we were opening casinos at a very fast pace and getting a lot of people to work, creating a lot of jobs. In 2002, there was like 200 full-time employees at the Osage Nation. In 2006, there was about 900. In 2010, there was about 1,800. During that period of time, a lot of Osages came back because there was something to come back to -- there were jobs. Not just casino jobs because the money that was leaving the casinos and going to the tribe, the tribe would invest in expansion of a lot of programs, specifically the education program, scholarships. So the benefits of the tribe that spilled out into the communities, no matter where you were, you were an Osage, in New York City or California or Washington State, you were eligible to apply for a college scholarship program. If you met all the criteria of making the grades and getting yourself accepted into state-recognized schools, different types, private schools too, but couldn’t match the kind of funds that other tribes were giving because there was like 12 -- by the time I left office, I think we had 1,000 kids in college somewhere around the United States. Before we may have had a few hundred kids in college and they were getting like $300 a semester. Well, now we’re giving them like $5,000 a semester and that’s almost enough to cover all your expenses. Almost, depends on where you’re going, but it covers a big chunk of it. So the more we were able to bring the resources back out of the communities, simultaneously as their political rights were becoming more involved, questions of accountability and participation and eligibility became more part of the social media conversations. And I can promise you between that, the language program, which just blossomed in the last 10 years because the tribe was putting a million dollars a year into the program that we just invented on our own and the kids that got to take Osage language in the public school system were speaking it in the hallways and classes. There was one story in Skiatook where I’m from where the quarterback was Osage and he’d taken those classes and he convinced his linemen to take Osage that weren’t Osage. And his cadence in Osage was good for at least one to two offside penalties every game. All of a sudden people started getting the benefit and there was this swagger, this confidence that didn’t exist before that you had the political rights and the financial resources to actually exercise and were going on at the same time. And when that was going on we didn’t have any trouble filling up a room whenever we did something.”

Ian Record:

“Thank you panelists. One final round of applause. We only have a couple minutes left and I wanted to wrap up with just some food for thought as you leave. My colleague Minnie is handing out flash drives courtesy of NNI as a show of gratitude for your attending the session today. It’s got some really good information about some of NNIs current initiatives. I wanted to share with you some strategies we’ve seen have been effective and again you see a lot of these coming through the comprehensive and multi-faceted approaches that Osage and Ysleta del Sur have been pursuing there in citizen engagement.

And really what I want you to think about when I roll through these is really the challenge incumbent upon all of you is how do we re-instill a sense of tribal-specific civics in our community? How do we get our citizens to want to actively engage their governance in a constructive way where they feel like they’re contributing to the present and future of the nation? So things like high school classes, community college classes, community meetings to discuss tribal government, tribal history, tribal law, a series in the tribal newspaper, ongoing series conveying the messages and themes that you want to get across to begin to inspire your people to participate, youth councils. That’s a huge movement across Indian Country, where we’re seeing this emergence of youth councils to try to get the future generation of nation leaders oriented in the right way figuring out how they can contribute. Tribal government handbooks, history courses for tribal government employees -- Cherokee is a leader in this area -- focus groups, as Pat’s nation has used so effectively, and then one on one. I think the challenge facing everybody in this room is to think about how do I begin to move our citizen education and engagement work forward on my one on one interactions with my professional colleagues, with the citizens I run into at the grocery store to either start a new conversation or change the existing one to something that’s more productive that’s pointed towards moving the nation forward, to breaking through some of these barriers and sort of things that keep us in place. How do we keep that moving forward?

And then finally some things to think about. Think about citizen engagement not as an event, but as a process. I think what particularly Jim said and what you see from Pat’s visuals is that you really need to conceive of this as a permanent part of your governance challenge. This is not something you just do when you have a big referendum vote; it’s something you need to do all the time. You need to institutionalize it as a governmental priority and fund it accordingly. You need to pay people to help you do this work. It’s not just about the elective leadership going out and doing the messaging and getting citizens engaged. You need an actual governmental apparatus to carry this work out. Know all of your audiences. You saw that with Pat’s presentation. You have to know who you’re trying to reach. You need to know how they learn. Do you know how your young people learn? Do you know what sort of social media they’re using? Do you have a presence on that social media? Are you speaking to them through that mechanism? If not, you need to think about, 'How do we begin to do that?' And we’re seeing some tribes begin to develop social media policies because they realize, as Jim said, it’s a part of life; it’s a fact of life. You’ve got to figure out how do we take advantage of this. Develop a holistic approach to tribal civics that demands that everyone teach as well as learn. That’s why Indigenous societies were so vibrant traditionally is because everyone had a role in imparting the knowledge of the nation to carry it forward. It wasn’t just the job of government, it wasn’t just the job of formal education systems, it was the job of everybody. Keep up with and capitalize on new technology, just talked about that. And finally, track your citizen engagement activities and their effectiveness. Pat made that point crystal clear. So you’ve got to assess what you’re doing and figure out, 'Is there a way we can do it better?'"

Patricia Riggs: The Role of Citizen Engagement in Nation Building: The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Story

National Congress of American Indians

Patricia Riggs, Director of Economic Development for Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (YDSP), discusses how YDSP has spent the past decade developing and fine-tuning its comprehensive approach to engaging its citizens in order to identify and then achieve its nation-building priorities.

This video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of the National Congress of American IndiansThe "Rebuilding the Tigua Nation" film shown in this video resource is featured on the Indigenous Governance Database with the permission of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo.

Native Nations
Resource Type

Riggs, Patricia. "The Role of Citizen Engagement in Nation Building: The Ysleta del Sur Pueblo Story." 70th Annual Convention & Marketplace, National Congress of American Indians. Tulsa, Oklahoma. October 15, 2013. Presentation.

Ian Record:

"So I'll turn the floor over to Patricia Riggs. Again, she's the economic development director with the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and as she told me today, she's sort of their de facto chief of citizen engagement for their pueblo. Anytime they face a challenge in this arena, they tend to turn to her because she's done so much wonderful work in this area. Did you want to start with the video or with your presentation?"

Patricia Riggs:

"It's a little long. If you want to start it and then kind of go through middle and then restart it again."

Ian Record:

"So again, this is a video that Pat was involved with putting together. It's called 'Rebuilding the Tigua Nation.' Tigua is another name that refers to her nation and this again I think...think of this not just in terms of what it shares with you, but think of this as a viable tool of citizen education and engagement. We're seeing more and more nations do things like this. These videos that instruct not just their own citizens, but outsiders about who the nation is and what they're doing and why."


Patricia Riggs:

"Good afternoon, everyone. Hello. As Ian stated, my name is Pat Riggs and I'm the Director of Economic Development at Ysleta del Sur [Pueblo]. We started community engagement back in 2006. Of course at the Pueblo, there's always been some form of community engagement, but we had a very significant event that took place. If you paid attention closely to the film, we talked about the casino being closed down. In 1987, we were federally restored and there was one little clause in our restoration act that said, "˜The tribe shall not have gaming that is illegal in Texas.' So when the State of Texas started bingo and lottery, we decided that there was gaming in Texas so we opened our casino and they sued us and the courts held that the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act didn't apply to the tribe, that the language in our restoration act superseded that. So we operated gaming from around 1992 to 2002. It was open for about 10 years and it first started as a bingo hall and then later on to Class 2 gaming. So when the casino actually did end up closed, we had invested quite a bit in infrastructure and the tribe had done a lot of good things with our funding or our revenues that we got for the tribe, but we were basically at a...we were in shock. There was this economic turmoil that was taking place that we didn't realize was actually going to take place. We thought that there was no way that we would lose the case, but we ended up losing the case.

So citizen engagement started out of the need to really find out what the community needed. What we started doing is really looking at different groups and seeing what their needs are and really trying to identify with the tribe and what they needed. This is just a picture of what we call "˜listening to our ancestors,' because everything that we do really does come from our history and who we are as a people and where we've been so just the fact that in spite of everything that's happened to us, it seems like...sometimes they call us the 'Bad Luck Tribe' because if something can go wrong, it happens to us. We got left out of the Treaty of Guadalupe in 1861 so we weren't recognized with the other pueblos. We ended up on the Confederate side of the line. Just things throughout history ended up happening.

Really a lot what was happening, too, was our own mindset and the way we thought as a community, so when the casino was closed we kind of stood at a standstill, we didn't know what to do, we were in shock. And I had been working at another location. I'd been working in the City of El Paso and the tribe asked me to come back and I was like, "˜Economic Development, hmm.' So I really didn't know anything about economic development, but I said, "˜I'll give it a try.' But when I came back, one of the things that I started doing is really listening and trying to figure out what was happening in the community. And so I heard in the video that Ian played before from Native Nations Institute, someone said that some of the challenges or the biggest challenges for the tribe come from within. So I'm really about training and trying to figure out what the community wants and so they started asking me to train different departments. And so I started paying attention to what the community was actually saying and to what some of our employees were saying and these are actual...their quotes, their statements that were actually said and they're things like, "˜Tiguas don't want to learn.' Everything was always blamed on tribal council and we all know that there's problems with councils sometimes, but sometimes I think we exaggerate those things because we don't want to move forward or we don't...we try to rationalize what we are or what we're not doing in our departments. So it was always about, "˜We can't do that because tribal council won't allow it,' "˜It doesn't matter.' Some of our non-tribal employees were saying that we couldn't do particular, they wouldn't do particular things because the tribal members would go tell council what they were doing and it was just, it was ridiculous, really. When you really sat down and listened to it and you put all the statements together, it was ridiculous.

So basically...so what we determined that we needed to do is really engage our community in education and try to really figure out who the community was because we know who we are as a people, we know our culture, we knew traditions, but we don't really know the community in terms of what needs do they...are out there, what are the poverty levels, what are the education levels, who's employed, who's not employed, what kind of skills do they have? And as far as doing a needs assessment we needed that, but we also needed to take an inventory of what we have or had in order to move forward. So we started doing different things to try and get the community engaged. And so this is what it looks like if you do the 'flyer method' and it just doesn't work. You send all these beautiful flyers out there and just get ready for everybody to come and they don't show up. So it was like, "˜Well, what am I doing wrong here?' And we were actually, at one point we even brought Native Nations Institute and we had a very small crowd there. So we thought about what we could actually do to get the community more involved.

So what we found is actually working with groups and even within the reservation there are special interest groups. We all have little things that...or subjects that we're interested in and what we found is to look for those core champions in your communities. And there's people who are really just very traditional and that's what they want to discuss and that's what they want to do in terms of who they are so we asked them, "˜Okay, how do you think that we can infuse tradition into the things that we're doing?' We also started working with youth. The thing about youth is if you work with youth and you train them and you honor them and you show their parents what they're doing, then the parents come, too. So we started figuring out how to get parents engaged as well. And then we did different things with leadership, with elders. One of the things that we did learn is that we really need to figure out how to work with each group and how to...and so through the little groups we got the whole.

The big thing here is you can't expect people to just come to you. As I showed the meetings with the flyers, it just didn't work. We had to find different ways to actually go out into community and to seek input. So we went to the elders. And I mentioned earlier that our casino had closed, but it's actually operating now as a sweepstakes center. So it's kind of we have... they look like terminals, but they're actually all hooked up into one network. So there are signs all over the place that say you're donating to the tribe and you're donating to our health, to our education. So we just got creative on ways to do things. It's not quite as revenue generating as it was before, but there's still funding coming in. One of the times I went to the elders and I wanted to do a survey with them and so they said, "˜Oh, no, we don't have time for your survey.' And I'm like, "˜But I have 'Free Play'.' And they, "˜Oh, Free Play, okay. Sit down.' So we started talking to them and then they found out some of the things that we're doing and they were engaged in that, actually came to where they actually wanted to participate in some of the events that we were having. And so they started making the food and sometimes we could pay them and sometimes we couldn't, but they were okay with that and they started assisting us in our events.

So then we also, one of the things that we did is in order to engage the community...there is no greater engagement than actually serving the community, so we started an AmeriCorp program and the AmeriCorp program, they work with the elders, they work in the cultural center, they work in emergency management, in environmental. So they're kind of our ambassadors for community engagement in different areas. The other thing is we do a lot of data collection and we do a lot of surveys, but when we do it we work with focus groups or we work with all the other little core groups and we educate them about why we're trying to collect the information. So we educate them first and then they are kind of our core champions or leaders so they go out into their groups and they tell either the other elders or youth or whoever it is that we're working with why it is important. So we educate them on how to educate the community on getting that information and we've been very successful in gathering information for our tribe in order to determine what it is that we're going to focus on, whether it's health or whether it's economic development. I'll show you a little bit more in a minute about the successes with data collection and also the projects that we're working on.

I know that one of the first times that Joe Kalt went to Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, I had been working in writing grants not just for the tribe, but also for the City of El Paso and I wanted a model, I wanted a matrix and I was like, "˜Well, do you have a matrix?' and it's like, "˜No.' So I realized, I think I really like to visualize what it is that we're trying to accomplish, but I kind of think very methodical. So I have to figure out what exactly it is that we're going to tackle, but I also realize that those kind of models and theories, they're for other communities, they're not really for us. We can't take somebody's methodology and use it at our tribe. So I started to look back and thinking like what is it exactly that we're doing, and this is what I came up with.

Well, one of the things is we have a purpose. No matter what it is that we're trying to tackle, whether it's constitutional reform or building entrepreneurs, there's a purpose there. So you find that purpose and there's also...but with that purpose, there's always passion and I'm so passionate about what I do. That's all I do. I have to have people drag me away from it sometimes, but there's other people in your communities with that passion. So look for the passionate people and then harvest the information. You really do have to harvest information and gather that input from your community, because that's who you're working for and that's who really is driving you to do what it is that you do.

The other thing is...so you visualize and then you assess and you plan. And I know it's kind of theory-like, but when it comes to your community, what is it that you're visualizing? Like for us, one of the things that we're working on is a land use plan and land acquisition. So when we're visualizing, I'm not doing this theory of visualizing, we're actually looking at the community and thinking about the things that we lost and the things that we need for ceremony and where...the places that it's going to come from, from the land and how are we going to be able to redevelop our lands and preserve our lands as they once were and then also rebuild our community as a village because we're used to living as a village and that was taken away from us. So when we're visualizing, that's...we're visualizing how we want to live. It's about how the entire...what the entire community sees. So then of course we can work, work, work, work, but at the end of the day we really do have to have something to show for it. So you do have to measure those impacts and the outcomes of what it is that you're doing because...and then you take it back to the community and show your successes and so you report the results.

And then here's basically the same thing with a little bigger snapshot, but in the end it really is about community, whether you're trying to figure out what the community wants, you start at the community; whether you're trying to figure out the data, you're getting it from community, you're trying to draw a picture of what your community really is, and then in the end you report those results back to the community and then you also try to determine what is driving the community and those are things such as the ceremonies and traditions and culture and just living together as a Tigua society for us. So we look at the core values and we reaffirm them by asking different people in the community and also about what is the best way to apply the things in a manner that...that will work in a manner that is fair to the entire tribe and to every sector of the tribal population.

So this is a little bit of our timeline and as far as our economy is concerned...so really what was happening to us, we had basically lost all our lands. We were living in a small part of El Paso in a little, basically it was a neighborhood. It really wasn't a reservation and we had, there were small adobe houses, most of them were one room. It was during the termination policy, so we really didn't have any hope of having a better life. We were just happy to be able to still be there and still be living as a community and still, even though we weren't federally recognized, we still held tribal elections, we still had our ceremonies every year, we still had people in charge of dong the things that...the doings that needed to be done for us to continue to survive as a Pueblo the best that we could. So of course the civil rights movement took place later and that's when people started to gain more confidence and to start asserting their rights.

So what happened in the 1960s is we were basically losing our few homes that we had left to tax foreclosure because it was the City of El Paso now and throughout there's a couple pictures that you'll see the entire, what our Pueblo used to look like, and because we weren't on federal trust land. And one of the important reasons that we start that film where we're crossing the highway and the tribal police are directing traffic for us is because that one spot is where our Pueblo used to be and we had stacked adobe homes. And the City of El Paso -- because we weren't federally recognized or had trust status -- they decided to have condemnation proceedings against our Pueblo because they needed that one spot that's a highway and they needed it to extend the highway. So they had condemnation proceedings and they condemned the Pueblo basically. So that is the center of our tribe and that's why we decided to start the film there.

So land acquisition and development and regaining and putting land into trust is very important for us so basically there was a lawyer by the name of Tom Diamond that helped us to get federally restored or federally recognized in 1969, but we were basically terminated on the same day because the State of Texas had a Texas Indian Commission, so they turned over the trust responsibility to the Texas Indian Commission. Well, there were some good things that happened out of that. We did get some new housing out of it and there was a few more jobs and some economic development took place. So in the "˜60s, basically our unemployment rate was 75 percent. By the "˜70s it went to about 50 percent and we went from a fifth-grade education to about a 10th-grade education. So then in '87 we were federally restored and the casino was thriving and our unemployment rate basically went down to three percent. We went from 68 acres of land that were transferred over during the time of restoration to 75,000 acres of land that we invested in with our casino revenues and then we also built a lot more housing. I think you saw in the film where the housing was. And then we...but then the casino closed because we were sued. So basically, we were really at odds, we didn't know what we were going to do.

So we started off by doing projections on our funding and what we had in reserves and we determined was that if we continued to operate in the same manner we would run out of money in seven years. So we had to decide what it is that we were going to do, so that's when we started this nation-building process and we started investing money in a development corporation, which is now doing federal contracting and we're located in probably at least five places throughout the country: Washington D.C., Virginia, California, Colorado Springs. And that also took forming a board and separation of business and politics and having a committee that turned into...later to the board. And so this education process, we're educating different people in the community.

One of the things we did is we educated the board on how to operate as a board, which started as an economic development committee and then they ended up the board. So now this... we reassigned the economic development committee and now they're being trained as how to operate as a nonprofit board so then we're going to replace them and they're going to become probably another board. So we just keep getting small groups and keep educating so that they can build the capacity to do other things. But in order to do this we really, really needed to know what our state was as far as a community is concerned. So we were able to really determine what our... who we were, where our people were located at, what the rates of unemployment were and poverty levels, household levels, individual household levels.

The other thing that happened to us in our restoration act is that the language in there said that the tribe shall consist of membership that is on the base roll and people descending from that base roll up to one-eighth blood quantum. They said that in 1987. So we quickly realized that in a few years we'd no longer exist as a tribe because we would lose that blood quantum. So the tribe decided that they were going...we went to Congress and it took us 10 years of introducing different bills, but we ended up just recently having the blood quantum bill passed. So in order to do this, we really needed to figure out who we were as a people because we needed to take that information to Congress. So this is what our community looks like now and we also studied the people that live outside the service area, our tribal members that live outside the service area as well, and what we're finding is really they left before economic opportunity because they're a little bit better off in terms of education and household income.

I talked a little bit about cooperative education and so what we're also doing in order to engage our citizens and get this information -- because we collect that information every single year from tribal members and we've been successful as far as getting the information -- but we also make sure that we give it back to them and that when we compile any sort of information that we give them the reports back, like whether it's health and if there's a diabetes report or whatever it is. But the other thing is we all come to these conferences because we work as professionals, but your average tribal citizen doesn't have that opportunity to learn the things like we're learning today, what's happening in the federal courts and what's happening as far as policy is concerned and even what happened with the Indian Child Welfare Act, and so we take that education to them. We make sure that there's money in the budget to educate our tribal members and we do everything from Indian law to nation building to...we have other people even come and do community engagement to let them know how important it is. We have financial literacy training, but we also do like board training. And so if there's a subject that we think is important for us to learn and what's on the agenda here and at other conferences, we make sure that we find a way to take it back to the community and to be able to train them so that they know. And even when we work with our departments who of course...there has to be some professional training there, a lot of times some of our tribal members don't have the capacity to be in those higher positions of directors, so we tell our directors, "˜We're going to put this training out for you, but you need to pick a tribal member and it doesn't matter if it's a secretary or a maintenance person or whatever it is, you need to bring them to this training also and you need to figure out how you're going to get that information back to your department as well.'

As far as community engagement and what it's done for us as far as impacts are concerned, these are some of the projects that we've worked on that have really made an impact in our community. One of the things is we did this huge comprehensive strategy and that's where we determined that we were going to do things like the Tigua, Inc. Development Corporation, we were going to do workforce development, land use plan, land acquisition plan. All those things were outlined in this strategy and there was focus groups and surveys that were on our website. And if you actually look at our website all the reports are on there as far as the information that the community provided to us and what we compiled and gave back to the community. So this comprehensive strategy, a lot of strategies and plans just end up on the bookshelf, but as you can see it didn't. We like to say that you need to plan your work and you need to work your plan.

The other thing is Tigua, Inc., the tribe provided the seed money for that and now they have really just taken off over the last couple years and getting significant contracts and they're doing a lot of building maintenance all over the country. They just recently got awarded the Wyler Building in California, which is the second largest government facility in the country to do maintenance. This is the Tigua Business Center that we just recently moved into about a year and a half ago and it also incubates Tigua, Inc., but it also serves as headquarters for our department, Economic Development, and we're also just now building another extension to it, which is going to be to incubate tribal member businesses, and we also have, because we really truly believe in educating the tribe and we're not quite there yet as far as having a college. We're building the Tigua Technology Center there, which is also going to help to provide the software that some of our tribal members need to get their business done like the costing and pricing for construction companies and for auto mechanics and CAD and those things that are really expensive that they can't afford as far as software is concerned.

And then also our tax code, this was one of the things that also came out of the comprehensive economic development strategy. For some reason, the tribe had decided that it was going to adopt the State of Texas tax code, which made no sense whatsoever. It was 200 pages long and we couldn't enforce it. And so what we did is we took a look at what would best serve our needs and we went from 200 pages to 20 pages and in less than a year we went from $58,000 a year to $1.2 million in tax collections. The allocation also is divided up for different programming. But I'm able to support our department because we get 30 percent of tax allocation and that's how I am able to turn that into some of the programming that we're doing.

Here's the feedback and it's really a snapshot of the feedback that we got back from the community and the things that they were concerned with in land use. So they were, the community of course was concerned with things like cultural preservation and being able to maintain our traditional practices, having land for residential use, commercial needs and agriculture, as well as transportation. So we determined what the best use of lands would be and through community engagement we also took an inventory of our lands and created a database that had all the criteria of our lands, as well as GIS mapping, whatever, if there were environmental assessments. And so we have a really defined database of all our lands and then we created a master plan and an acquisition plan. The acquisition plan isn't quite finished yet, but this timeline that we looked at started with the need to preserve our lands and we have these milestones where we want to have our master plan and do energy development and make sure that everybody has housing and those things. But then at the end it ends with cultural preservation, too, because it demonstrates 100 years from now that we're still here and our land is preserved.

And then also on one side we have all the modern and things we need to survive today, but we also have all the things that are important to us historically and culturally. When we started writing a master plan through community engagement, we had these and we had these maps of the land...of our land in big sheets and we had the community write what certain places of what they wanted the land to look like.

And also they put places like by the river, like for example, that is still important to us today but that...we have ceremonies at the river that we can't just go to the river anymore. We border Mexico, so everybody knows about the big fence at the river. So we actually have to go ask the Border Patrol to let us go to the river to do our ceremonies. So part of our master planning is to take over the acequias or the irrigation system or the canal system that we actually created 300 years ago. So we created this cultural life cycle that we would incorporate into our land use and master plan and it talks about where we are at birth and how we're being nurtured and the lessons we're learning and how we learn about our culture and then how as elders our roles change and that then we become teachers and we pass on this tradition and culture. So in our land use plan we...that bar that intersects across there talks about the different places that we're going to create to make sure those things happen. So we have things like a nation-building hub and also an elder center and places for teens to meet as well.

So these are...see those are pictures of maps that we used where the community actually drew what they wanted the community to look like, and these are statements that the community provided back. And then we also had different criteria as far as what the community wanted to see and graphed and charted what the community best wanted for our lands. So these are also places that we don't own yet, but they're what we used to own. And so in our land acquisition process, we want to buy these locations back and this is what we could do with them as far as economic development is concerned. And it seems like way out there, but in reality it really isn't. When you think about we just had 68 acres in 1987 and we have 75,000 acres now, it's attainable. And then so this is what our acquisition process is going to look like and how we mapped it. Everything that is in yellow is what we own and what's in the darker colors is our long-term acquisition. We know that we can't buy everything, but we do...those are the gaps that we want to fill in. I talked a little bit about our enrollment ordinance. Well, we're working on an enrollment ordinance, a new citizen engagement [process] because of the blood quantum bill that just passed last year. So I had thought that that was going to go to somebody else, but I just was told last week that that citizen engagement process would actually come to our department so that's something that we're working on now. This was just a little conversation that the team had last week and these are questions that we're really thinking about what we need to ask the community. It'll be much more comprehensive, but just basic things like what does citizenship mean to you and how did you learn how to be a good citizen from your parents and your community, and so that's the way we usually start with just the basic questions and then we move into real comprehensive model.

These are just a couple, I guess, pointers to just make sure that you try to identify what your tribe needs and also...and then as far as when you're working within your community just know that everything that you're doing is either going to impact your tribe either positively or negatively. And what the work [is] that you're doing, how is that going to actually help your tribe or not help your tribe because sometimes we're afraid to move forward and to change, but in order to change you really need to know what it is that your community wants and to respect what their thoughts are and what they want for the future. Thank you."

Shannon Douma: Cultivating Good Leadership: The Santa Fe Indian School's Summer Policy Academy

Native Nations Institute

Shannon Douma (Pueblo of Laguna) provides a detailed overview of how the Santa Fe Indian School's Summer Policy Academy works to develop Pueblo youth to ably take the leadership reins of their nations through a rigorous curriculum designed to build up their sense of cultural identity and personal self-confidence and self-esteem.

Resource Type

Douma, Shannon. "Cultivating Good Leadership: The Santa Fe Indian School's Summer Policy Academy." Tribal Constitutions seminar. Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management and Policy, University of Arizona. Tucson, Arizona. April 3, 2014. Presentation.

"Good morning everyone. My name is Shannon Douma. I'm from the Pueblo of Laguna -- I'm also Hopi/Tiwa -- and for the past couple years I've been serving as the Director of the Summer Policy Academy, which is a program out of the Santa Fe Indian School. I also serve as the... I share a couple hats at the Native American Community Academy. It's an urban charter school in Albuquerque, New Mexico; it's our eighth year as a school and we serve primarily urban Native students in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I serve as the Enrollment Director, Out of School Time Learning Director.

Today I wanted to share with you though a program that has been in existence for...since 1997 called the Summer Policy Academy. So there are some key questions that I wanted to touch upon in my slide in reference to some of the things that are...you'll want to consider in your constitutions, consider when working with young people. This is a program, it's for Pueblo students and I wanted to draw your attention to how we start our program. We select about 25 Pueblo students from across New Mexico and one of the big...one of our key components of our program is really focused on identity development, understanding self as an individual. We have students that come in from many different parts of our communities, some students that live in urban settings, some students that are born and raised on the reservation. It's important that we identify the students that our Pueblo communities represent, but I wanted to draw your attention to this.

When we work with our students, we start off with an understanding of self, their core values, how they relate to the world. So in terms of who am I as an individual, my inherent qualities, the skills that I have and all of us possess these qualities whether it's our personality, the skills that we posses, our ability to live those core values, the ability to get along with people. In terms of if you think about this as you as a whole person, all of us are individuals that come from families, whether we're a sister, a brother, uncle, auntie, there are very important roles that we have in our communities and how we interact with each other, but also our young people. And so in terms of as individuals, how we live out these responsibilities as brothers and sisters or aunties and uncles is a really important thing that we share with our students because we want to know their role in preserving families within their own communities.

Then, if you think about our self in relation to our communities, how we...what are our roles and responsibilities in our communities? Think about...my community, we have very specific roles and responsibilities that we have as community members and how we live together in our village. In terms of myself, I've been raised as the oldest daughter; I have a lot of responsibilities when it comes to things that happen in our communities around our feast days, around our ceremonies. Being the oldest daughter, I was taught at a very young age to learn how to cook, to clean, to take care of my family. So those are things that have been instilled in me that I now possess and now am passing onto my children.

So in terms of our self in relation to the global world, we want our students to understand that when they leave our communities, they go outside of our communities, they're interacting with people who know little about them, little about who we are as Native people and sometimes there are stereotypes, sometimes there's misperceptions about who we are and it's important that our students know how they relate to the world outside their communities, how does the world see them and how do they maneuver in and out of that world as they go to college, as they seek work in the workforce outside of our communities and then as they come back home.

So all of us possess an understanding of ourselves in many different ways based on our experiences, our backgrounds, our relationships with our families, how we grow as individuals into adulthood. And so this is where...when we talk with our students, this is where we start; it's from an understanding of their core and who they are and how they relate to every aspect of their lives. When we start our work with our students, we start from our core values. Our core value...it's not...all of us have these core values that we possess, that we learned from our families, from our communities –- love -- being able to show the love and compassion to each other and it's something that we want to model to our students when they come and they work with us throughout the time that they're with us how we want to relate to one another. If you think about respect, sometimes respect in a sense is we have an understanding of it, but how do we practice it? Do our students understand what respect is and how they live that through their daily lives? Of course there's a lot of core values that I think resonate with all of us and we possess all those core values and this is a foundation, this is how we advocate for a better future, a desirable future for our students.

And then if you think about...the other side is our...the gifts of our Creator: the ability to learn, our education, the ability to think forwardly, the ability to be innovative and creative and then...so all of these things on the other side are basically things that are inherently given to us by the Creator, whether it's the land, our culture and resources, our families and how we take care of them. And then also governance: how we live our lives and how we govern ourselves, what are those specific responsibilities that we have within our own villages is really important as to how we raise our children, how we develop their most desirable future for our communities.

So when we work with our students, this is the foundation that we start from. We start from our core values. It's a really important place and I think all of us can see that this is what drives how we want to create a better community for our communities. And so this is what we start off with our students. When I move forward, I'm talking about our Summer Policy Academy. So the Summer Policy Academy is a project out of the Leadership Institute of the Santa Fe Indian School and we have 12 programs under that program. And I want to acknowledge my colleagues that have been working on this, the leadership Institute for the past probably 15 years plus.

The program started in 1997 and it was a forum to bring Pueblo people together to talk about important issues like education, like family, like law, health, these important issues that are impacting our communities. This is a picture of our students that have participated in our program. Our Summer Policy Academy is for incoming juniors and seniors representing the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico. Our mission is to grow leaders, youth as critical thinkers, conscious critical thinkers. Just sitting here this past couple of days, a lot of these issues that we talk about, whether it's law, governance, education, health, they're very challenging issues, issues that impact our communities. And so throughout this process that our students are going through, through a two-week process we're engaging them in critical thinking, asking those critical questions of each other, but also our leaders, our faculty that serve in our program. We want students to understand public policy.

And this program began and also our Leadership Institute began because we saw the need to have more people represented in our state government, to be people who are making laws, people who are advocating on behalf of our communities. At that time, there was less people that were representing our communities, our Pueblo communities, so we wanted to advocate and start early to get students to start thinking about these tough issues that sometimes we don't know about until we're in tribal leadership positions and we're in places of leadership in our communities where we start learning about governance, start learning about family issues, about all of the public policies that have been developed over time that have impacted our communities and specifically our Pueblo communities.

Also our program focuses a lot on community and service. We want students to give back, we want students to contribute back to our community, we want students to come back home to our Pueblo communities and serve in key roles in our communities, whether it's program planners, program developers, village roles, tribal leadership. And then of course leadership is an important skill for anyone to have, the ability to problem solve, the ability to speak in public, the ability to problem solve and make decisions so those are all key areas that we focus on with our program.

Our curriculum is designed so that students consider Indigenous issues from a world perspective. I'm going to start from the local tribal perspective. There's issues in our community that our students are studying, in our villages, things that come to the table when it comes to, for instance, health. What's the status of health in our communities? What's the status of health among our Pueblo communities in regards to Native youth? And then looking at our state and tribal governmental relations, we take our students to the New Mexico "Roundhouse," the legislature. They participate in a mock legislative session with our co-director, Mr. Regis Pecos.

And we also study national issues. What is our relationship with the federal government? And so that's important for our students to understand the relationship and how when we advocate and we go to Washington, D.C. We're going to learn about our programs that we have an understanding of what those national issues are and how they impact our communities.

And then globally, what are those Indigenous issues that are happening in places like New Zealand, in Africa, in Australia. We have a key area that we focus on with our students when it comes to understanding that there's communities across the world that are experiencing the same issues that we are as Native people here in the United States.

So our program is a four-week program. It's two weeks on campus at the Santa Fe Indian School. Our students stay in the dormitory there. And our topics focus around those 10 areas that I mentioned in the couple of slides, the gifts of the Creator. And those topics came about through the community institutes that have been happening since 1997, Pueblo people saying health is an important issue, education is an important issue. So those topics are areas that we focus on with our program.

Another part of our program focuses on health and wellness. We want students to know that being healthy and well is important. So part of that is...one part of it is starting every morning with positive affirmations, taking care of their body physically, understanding emotional health, social and emotional health and wellness.

And one part that we do is a talking circle that happens in the evening time where students are pretty much talking about issues that are important to them. What's, maybe, their own personal issues that they want to bring to the table?

Another part is project planning. We want our students to know the essential ingredients to put together a plan and a project when they go home so that they have something to go off when they're implementing their projects.

Team building is important. We have our students for two weeks so we want them to know one another; we want them to reinforce the core values of family, of brothers and sisters. And so that's a key component of our program is being able to be together when it comes to living together and growing together throughout the two weeks that they're with us.

A creative writing component: our students are developing creative writing, free verse poetry, and so we have individuals that come in and share with our students how to do that. And then art is a piece that we just added to our program. We spend a couple days with Pueblo artists. This past year we spent...the past two years, we've spent the week with Robert Tenorio who's a Pueblo potter from Kewa Pueblo. And so he's really instrumental in reinforcing and encouraging students to be involved in...to grow their interest in art and to also display their art and be advocates for people in the community that are wanting to be artists.

Following our program, we have a two-week timeframe where students go back home to their communities, they initiate a service project, and then after the two weeks they come back and they present it at a graduation banquet that they share their project with their peers, their family, the community, tribal leaders.

How do we choose our leaders? Basically, it's a reflection of our community in our communities and our Pueblo communities, any of us can be called upon to serve in key roles in our communities, and so we want our students to reflect our communities. So we don't choose students who are doing well academically only. We want our students who have that leadership potential and so how we recruit students is by recommendation.

I, for the last, since I started the program have served as a recruiter, and so I seek recommendations from our faculty, from community leaders, people that know the students in the schools that can recommend those students, and then understanding that we have different leadership styles and that we...

All of us possess different styles and so we have our students go through an exercise to understand what their leadership styles are. We've graduated seven to eight classes over the...since 2007. We have 150 youth leadership fellows. We have students that are now entering adulthood and moving toward college and career development. I'm going to go through these slides because my time is almost up.

One of the things I wanted to emphasize is the support from our community institutes. Our adult and Pueblo leaders serve as leaders and mentors to our students and Governor [Richard] Luarkie and my brother, Casey Douma, they serve as our faculty. So Governor Luarkie has shared with our students a presentation on governance and what that means and how it's displayed in our community, how it works in our communities, our Pueblo communities and then also with Casey talking about law and what that means. So it's really, really important that we look to our own people because we're the ones that have the expertise, we're the ones that possess those skills and talent and education. So we rely a lot on our community members to contribute back to the community and to our young people.

We're also encouraging adult and youth partnerships, adult and youth relationships, whether it's a parent and child, teacher and student, advisor and a student. We want to encourage that students can seek out an adult for support. And so throughout our entire time that our students are with us, they have the ability to make contact with an individual that they can rely on and trust. I'm going to finish up with a couple of slides.

We're beginning to have the conversation about role of women in leadership and in April 2012 we had a Pueblo Convocation that brought together about 400 people from all the 19 Pueblo communities to focus on the 10 topic areas that I had mentioned. And from this we started understanding the opportunity to bring in women because for the most part women are not involved with the political aspects of our communities. And so we started having the conversation from the public convocation, which led into a Pueblo Women's Convocation, Pueblo Institute for Women, which came from the Brave Girls Project at the Santa Fe Indian School. And so it's a program that we are focusing on in terms of how do we engage women in dialogue and discourse about key issues with our governance in our communities. So this is a three-year process.

We have our SPA One program we spend at the Santa Fe Indian School. We have SPA Two program where we travel to and study at Princeton University. Our students are matched up with a team leader where they research key issues that are pending legislation in Congress. And so our students are studying these issues at Princeton and then eventually travel to Washington, D.C. where they present these issues. We also have an SPA Three program that's an internship program where the students are actually serving in key roles, whether it's in legislator's office, program offices, libraries. We have students at my school that are serving as interns.

I think it's important to understand that when our students commit to our program, we invest the time in them. We invest the time from the time that we meet them with their families to the time they go through our program. And so time is really important when it comes to young people because their times is valuable and they need that investment.

The communication is building our network. How do we build our network of young people? And we've seen through the experiences of SPA that our network has been growing because our students having a deep interest in these issues, but also having the opportunity to network across the Pueblos with each other. We have a conscious investment in our curriculum. We tweak it; we tailor it to see what's worked.

We've tried many programs, many different I guess opportunities when it comes to partnerships. And so we kind of welcome new opportunities, but we also notice when we need to tailor our program to meet the needs of our new audience of students. I guess an opportunity to be open to partnerships.

We have a lot of partnerships through like UNM [University of New Mexico] law school, UNM medical school where we take our students and expose them to law, to health, just for an example. So we want them to pursue career interests in these areas and come back home and support our people.

We have a key component around youth involvement and contribution. So we have students that are developing service projects over the two week time that they're in their communities. But also we have students that serve as representatives at the United Nations Permanent Forum. So we have students that are participating in the youth caucus there, but also internships, that they...of their interests.

And then lastly -- this is the last slide I want to share with you -- is what we have learned and it's something I wanted to pass on to you because we talk a lot about involving young people, we talk a lot about investing in young people early. There were comments about, 'We need to do this in schools,' and so what we've learned is that we need to value youth voice. And we say that young people are important, that young people are our future, that young people are going to be in positions that we are in, that we have to value their voice, we have to engage them in conversation. And then finding money, channeling money to youth initiatives that are going to benefit young people so that we're putting our money where our mouth is really. We're talking about our future; we have to invest in our young people.

Encouraging collaboration among our community tribal programs to support youth. There's a lot of programs in our communities. How do they collaborate to leverage resources to bring ideas together to support youth? And then also identifying real youth advocates in our communities who are invested in youth and support them. There's a lot of things happen in our tribal communities that we may not know about because there's a lot of grassroots organizing that happens with young people. They see an issue, they want to be involved. How do we get them involved and how do we support them?

So the last thing is we always leave our students with this question. What will be your contribution? What is it that you're going to give back to your community? And so throughout the whole entire process when our students are going through this, we notice that young people are eager to be involved. They want to be involved and so our job is to connect them with the resources. And so I just wanted to leave this question with you all so that you can think about what will be your contribution to your communities, whether it's your individual contribution, your family contribution or your community contribution to what happens in your community. I think that's all the time I have, but if you have any questions I'm here."